March is National Nutrition Month so let’s talk about food. What I am about to say might seem obvious to some people but to some who read this the information will be new. The food we eat can be broken down into three major categories, or macronutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Often times when I speak to people about nutrition individuals understand that animal meat, eggs, and so forth are proteins. They also understand that butter and oils are fats and breads and pastas are carbohydrates. But when I tell people that ALL fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates many people are unaware of this fact. So, when I ask them, “what did you think they were”? People often say, “Well they are fruits and vegetables”.
Since I have been hearing this phrase from many people I thought I would give a brief explanation of what carbohydrates are and why certain carbohydrates are healthier choices than others. Carbohydrates are comprised of carbons and water. Carbohydrates differ by how those molecules are arranged and therefore different carbohydrates are treated differently by the body. As I often say, “Not all carbohydrates are created equally”. Some carbohydrates enter the blood stream faster than others after being consumed. When the entry rate of carbohydrates are high the body produces high levels of insulin. Elevated levels of insulin can cause the body to store fat and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and other health complications.
The good news is we can control our insulin levels by controlling what types of carbohydrates we eat most often. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates that when broken down enter the bloodstream slower than breads, pastas, sugars, etc. The reason carbohydrates enter the blood stream at different rates is because they are comprised of different types of sugars. The three most common sugars are glucose, fructose, and galactose. Fructose, commonly known as fruit sugar, must first be broken down into glucose in the liver before entering the bloodstream. Glucose on the other hand is taken up by the liver but then quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Since, fructose must first be converted into glucose foods that contain this type of sugar enter the blood stream slower than foods that contain glucose.
Now that we know not all carbohydrates are created equal make it a goal this month to choose fruits and vegetables over breads, pastas, and other carbohydrates comprised of glucose. Making this small adjustment to your daily life will help to improve your weight, risk of diabetes, and other health complications. An apple a day can help to keep the doctor away after all.