Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Straight Facts on Carbs

If you're a carb lover, now's the time to get a handle on how many carbs you should be eating every day. This information is not just important for your waistline. It's also important to control the potential for disease-causing inflammation that increases with high levels of circulating insulin and blood sugar -- and that may cause cancer.
That was the result of a recent analysis of 39 studies that found that the greater a person's intake of high glycemic index and high glycemic load foods, the greater the risks of certain types of cancer (endometrial and colon).
Every time you eat a carbohydrate-rich food like pasta, rice, potatoes, table sugar, pure glucose, cereals, or even whole grain bread it raises both your blood sugar and insulin levels. The potential for inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity increases when these foods are eaten in quantities beyond those our bodies can use.
Total daily activity, current body weight, and nutrient status all influence how well our body can process these foods. When you eat high carbohydrate foods, the amount of carbohydrate it contains is either used immediately for energy or stored as fat, depending on those factors.
If you're sitting in a meeting eating bagels or donuts, chances are that most of your energy-rich breakfast is circulating in your bloodstream looking for a home. If you're overweight, the scenario turns bleaker. In overweight people, insulin, the hormone needed for glucose entry into the cells for energy, is less efficient and causes blood glucose to rise and remain elevated for a longer duration.
Physical activity helps you utilize extra blood sugar, but for those of us who sit at a desk for most of the day or who get only a half hour on the treadmill per day, there is not nearly enough activity to utilize excess blood sugar. In fact, it would take days of hard physical labor to process the amount of carbohydrates consumed by much of the American population.
To make matters worse, reduced intake and body stores of nutrients like magnesium, chromium, zinc, and alpha-lipoic acid that aid the body in carbohydrate metabolism also contribute to insulin resistance and even a reduced ability to burn carbs during exercise. We have seen patients exercise intensely with the help of a personal trainer for 1 to 2 hours, five or six days a week and still not lose weight. Once we can replete them with these nutrients, they often lose weight with less exercise.
So how many carbs should you eat? At LMI, we have used a guideline of no more than 20 to 30% of calories as carbs for years. This is not too restrictive and is successful in most of our clients. The best way to determine how well your body is handling carbs is a post-prandial glucose and insulin test which measures blood glucose and insulin levels after eating a specified high carbohydrate food.
If one or both of these values are elevated, glycemic load intake should be immediately reduced. Taking the nutrients mentioned above has also helped many of our patients to eventually increase their carbohydrate intake somewhat without negative effects on their weight, blood glucose, or insulin levels.
Eating a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables like lettuce and kale, high-fiber legumes like lentils and beans, organically raised meats, and high-quality fats will help you burn fat, lose weight, and reduce your risk for many inflammatory conditions.
So swap your pasta, sweets, and excessive fruit for a few extra servings of vegetables and know that you're making a difference not only in your weight but in your overall health.

Source:"Total Health Breakthroughs" <
Author:James LaValle, RPh, ND, CCN

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