Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

The Baha'i Scriptures explain  “…the incursion of disease is due to the disturbance of the relative amounts of the body's component substances.  And the treatment consistith in adjusting these relative amounts.  And this can be...  made possible by means of foods." "...The starch component must be present to a given amount, and the sugar to a given amount. So long as each remainith in its natural proportion to the whole, there will be no cause for the onset of disease.  When, however, these constituents vary as to their natural and due amounts... it is certain that this will provide for the inroads of disease." (Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 152-165; Throne of the Inner Temple, pp. 90, 91)

Over the past few decades, carbohydrates and starches have been given a bad reputation. About half of what we hear and read about carbohydrates contradicts the other half.  Some say to eliminate carbs from our diet, while others tell us that our diet should consist mainly of carbs.  We hear – "To loose weight, cut out carbs".  "Tooth decay is caused by too many carbohydrates". "Carbs cause cancer and diabetes".  "Carbs give you energy".  "Starch is fattening".  Sugar is bad for us, and starch turns into sugar after we eat it".  Actually it's all partly true and partly false, because many people don't distinguish between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. So I'll share my conclusions from my research. 

What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as starches,
sugars, and celluloses) that are formed by vegetation.

  •  Starch... is a complex carbohydrate...the chief storage form of carbohydrate in plants, is an important food-stuff" (Merriam Webster's Medical Dictionary).

  •  Sugars are not all bad, only the processed ones.  Sugars in the form of fresh raw organic fruits, carrots, beets are health promoting, but when these good natural sugars are separated from their fiber when juiced or processed, they are not properly digested; they are absorbed into the blood stream too quickly and can cause blood sugar fluctuations. When these sugars are cooked they become too acidic.  The natural sugars in raw unfiltered honey are almost a perfect food and are health promoting when eaten in moderation with fiber foods such as whole grains or fresh raw fruit.  The Baha'i Scriptures recommend eating a spoonful of honey a day.

  •  Cellulose "is a polysaccharide of glucose units that constitutes the chief part of the cell walls of plants" (Merriam Webster's Medical Dictionary).

 There are two classes of carbohydrates:

Bad Carbs
Simple carbohydrates (anything made from refined sugars, syrups, refined flour, as well as instant mashed potatoes, canned fruits and fruit juices, sodas) are the ones that are damaging to our health and are fattening.  When carbs are processed much of the fiber and nutrients are lost, and what is left is quickly absorbed into the blood stream causing the blood sugar to rise too quickly. This may give us temporary energy, but then the pancreas and adrenal glands have to work to produce their hormones to bring the blood sugar back down.  This overworks and weakens these glands, causing blood sugar to drop too low too fast, which can result in fatigue, mood swings, headaches, light-headedness, or other symptoms.  As these glands become weaker, hypoglycemia, diabetes, immune system malfunction, allergies, and/or cancer could develop.  Obesity is also caused by simple refined carbs. Not only do they provide excess empty calories that turn into fat, but they cause the body to produce insulin, and make even more fat from its own insulin. High insulin levels suppress growth hormones and glucagons that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development.  Dr. Robert Atkins explains that many other serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and heart disease originate from the excess secretion of insulin.   And insulin overproduction is triggered by diets high in sugars and simple carbohydrates.  Sugar also depletes the body of essential nutrients such as calcium, and destroys the essential nutrient, folic acid, a deficiency of which can lead to birth defects, heart disease, Crohn's disease, cancer, mental illness, psoriasis, fatigue, and vertigo. Therefore, simple carbs should be avoided.

Good Carbs
Complex carbohydrates are formed from multiple units of simple sugars.  Complex carbs are derived from whole grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables that contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.  They are slowly broken down by the digestive system, so that glucose (the type of sugar needed by every cell, especially the brain) is released into the blood stream gradually over a longer period of time.  So, complex carbs do not require insulin production, and excess fat storage. They contain only a third the calories of simple carbs. They provide a steady flow of energy, a sense of well being, help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, regulate weight and bowel movements, and aid the healing process.   Raw fruits leave the stomach and go into the intestines in about 20 minutes, so they don't regulate the blood sugar and energy levels for as long as whole grains, beans and vegetables (2-8 hours).  Studies show that people who eat a lot of fiber from grains, vegetables and fruit have a lower risk of cancer and heart disease 

Now don't think you have to "give up" all your favorite foods to be healthy. You can just make healthier substitutes.  For example, you could substitute fresh raw fruits for simple carb sweets, and substitute natural brown rice for white rice, raw honey for sugar, whole grain pastas for white flour pastas, or try a spaghetti squash.  Just wash squash and bake about an hour, cut in half, scoop out seeds, then remove the strands of spaghetti with a fork. It looks just like the spaghetti you're used to, but lower in calories, higher in nutrients and fiber. You can make breads and pancakes by substituting whole grain flours for white flour, but the following is a tastier and healthier pancake recipe.  

1 small YAMS                                                       ½ cup whole OAT or MILLET flour
Optional- 1 tsp finely grated GINGER, dash BRAGG'S AMINOS, or ¼ tsp. CINNAMON.

Bake yam 45 minutes or so.  I grind whole grains in a little coffee grinder when I want flour. Grinding it fresh every time prevents the oils in the grain from becoming too rancid. It takes about 5 seconds. Mash yam and mix in flour, add optional ingredient if desired. Batter will be very stiff. Cook  on griddle or bake on cookie sheet, lightly oiled with a drop of lecithin.  Top sparingly with a mixture of OLIVE OIL and raw HONEY. Yam cakes are high in anti-oxidants, protein, complex carbs, B vitamins, and is easily digested.  Raw honey is high in nutrients and enzymes that aid digestion of grains and yams. 

To satisfy that sweet or chocolate craving:

1 cup raw ALMOND BUTTER or TAHINI                     ½ cup raw HONEY
¼ cup CAROB POWDER                                                ¼ cup OAT GROATS
1/3 cup raw NUTS

Grind ¼ cup nuts and oats in coffee grinder (or rinse and soak nuts and oats in purified water 24 hours, drain a few hours until dry, and then grind. This greatly increases the digestibility and nutrient value).  Mix oats, nuts, honey, almond butter or tahini, and carob powder.  Press into 8" by 4" pan, chill, and cut into 1" squares.  Toast and chop remaining nuts and sprinkle on top and press into fudge. Keep refrigerated. Preparation time under 5 minutes. 

Laurie Lynch is a Wellness Consultant, Naturopathic Doctor, Master Herbalist, Nutrition expert at the Living Well Health & Education Center, (910) 426-5159.

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