Nutrition as a science has been studied for a relatively short time compared to many other scientific disciplines. Consequently, there are frequent changes to the rules resulting in contradicting information. ‘Good Carbs’ and ‘Bad Carbs’ are examples of this.
Even though nutritional study is in its infancy, understanding the basics and applying them to weight loss and health is relatively simple. To run efficiently at any time the human body needs three basic nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. Vitamins, minerals and fiber are also essential, and are all present when foods containing the three basic nutrients are consumed.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
The most important nutrient for weight loss and basic everyday activities is the Carbohydrate, which is the basic required fuel source for the body. In other words, for the body to simply move and the brain to think, a basic form of carbohydrate – sugar in the form of glucose – is the fuel to do the job. Fuel?
Yes, fuel. Food is simply a tasty fuel for the body. Everything we eat is broken down by the digestive system to extract these basic nutrients and make the sugar available for fuel, while making the other nutrients available for the parts of the body that need them.
To avoid spikes in fullness and hunger in order to lose weight and maintain optimal health, complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads, cereals and pastas should be consumed most often. When complex carbohydrates are eaten, the body takes longer and uses more energy to digest them in order to get to the basic component, sugar. Eating these carbohydrates will allow the body to feel full longer, and avoid the intense hunger that leads to overeating and poor food choices.
Be sure to read the ingredients list on store bought items to ensure that the first ingredient is “whole wheat” or “whole grain”. Unfortunately, “Enriched Wheat Flour” does not contain whole grain. It is simply wheat flour with the whole grain taken out, and the vitamins put back in.
Alternately, when simple carbohydrates like sweetened breakfast cereals or sugary sodas are consumed, the body can use the sugar immediately without much work, and get a big boost in energy, followed by a correspondingly big drop in energy when the sugar is used up. Intense hunger is usually the end result, which is not good for weight loss.
Its all about Healthy Choices
Unless certain diseases are present, the body prefers a mixture of the three main nutrients most closely resembling 60% Carbohydrates, 20% Protein and 20% Fat, with the majority of the carbohydrates being whole grain. This daily mixture of nutrients allows the body to get everything it needs to run efficiently, and run after kids and pets (in other words, exercise).
Eating complex carbohydrates most often throughout the day, especially when combined with some protein and/or fat is the first and biggest step toward a healthy lifestyle.
Eating a piece of whole wheat toast with a little natural peanut butter, for example will last the body longer and make it feel more full than consuming a croissant with butter. Substituting half the noodles used in a spaghetti dinner with whole wheat noddles will gradually introduce complex carbohydrates into the daily lifestyle of a family.
These little changes will lead to more healthy changes, and a healthier lifestyle, which in turn will build the foundation for long term weight loss.