A Sugar Addict’s Guide to Good Carbs
Sugar addicts needs to arm themselves with the right information to kick the habit. Not all carbohydrates are the same, and despite what some mainstream diets pronounce, not every carbohydrate is your enemy.
Complex carbs vs. simple carbs
As a general rule, the more stuff the digestive system has to break down, the more gradual the sugar release into the bloodstream is. Slower is better because a slower sugar release means you produce less insulin.
For healthy insulin response, you should choose carbohydrates that are complex — carbs that are made up of long chains of sugar molecules and therefore take longer to break down. Examples of complex carbohydrates are fibrous vegetables like greens and beans and whole-grain starches like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat.
Simple carbohydrates consist of only one or two molecules and thus break down and enter the bloodstream very quickly. This makes the pancreas release a lot of insulin to control the rapid rise in sugar levels. High insulin levels cause a lot of problems, so stay away from simple carbs. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and sweet stuff like candy, corn syrup, fruit juice, powdered sugar, sweetened beverages, and table sugar.
How to get more fiber and nutrition per calorie
The best kind of carbohydrates are the ones that contain lots of fiber, are relatively low in calories, and have high nutrient content per calorie. So generally, fibrous vegetables fit the bill nicely.
A good rule of thumb is that the darker a vegetable or grain is, the more nutrients it contains. Dark, leafy greens are more nutritious than white iceberg lettuce. Quinoa, brown rice, and wild rice have more nutrients than white rice.
Most of your carbohydrates should come from vegetables because they’re high in nutrients and low in calories. Their glycemic load is low, so you can eat a large volume of vegetables without consuming too many total carbohydrates.
To make a global statement, you can pretty much eat all the vegetables you want without getting into too much trouble.
If you have gastrointestinal issues like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may need to temper the amount of fiber you consume. Readers with these medical conditions should consult a qualified professional for personalized advice.
Fruits are high in nutrition, but they’re also higher in calories and sugar (fructose) than vegetables, so be judicious in your consumption. Avoid drinking fruit juice because it’s basically fiber-free and very high in calories and sugar.
Problems with fructose for the sugar addict
Fructose occurs naturally in fruit. From that source it generally isn’t a problem because, in natural foods, fructose is bound to glucose, so you don’t eat that much of it.
However, fructose is also prevalent as a sweetener, and that becomes a biological problem. Humans can digest only a small amount of fructose. Eating too much fructose can cause bloating, flatulence, and loose stools.
Overconsumption of fructose is also a major factor in weight gain. The process of digestion breaks down most carbohydrates into glucose, which is the most basic fuel on the planet. All your cells use it, so your body processes it efficiently because it goes literally everywhere in the body. Fructose, however, is a very different simple sugar that isn’t used in cells.
All fructose goes to the liver, where most of it is immediately converted into triglycerides (fat). When you consistently eat a lot of fructose, you not only overload your liver but also basically create body fat on the spot.
Here are some more problems with consuming large amounts of fructose:
Cardiovascular problems: Excess fructose in the diet causes elevated cholesterol, homocysteine, and triglyceride levels.
Leptin insensitivity: Fructose doesn’t stimulate the production of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, like other carbohydrates do. The brain, unable to recognize that leptin is present, responds as if the body is starving. It then signals the body to lower the rate of metabolism and to store any fat that happens to be in the food. Hence, a high-fructose diet leads to extra storage of dietary fat and increased appetite.
Toxic byproducts: The liver’s metabolism of fructose creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which increases blood pressure and can cause gout.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, corn syrup sweeteners now represent more than 20 percent of total daily carbohydrate intake for the average American. Don’t be average!
Current research shows that approximately half of the population is unable to digest 25 grams of fructose by itself. Naturally occurring fructose is bound with glucose, making absorption a non-issue in reasonable amounts. Processed fructose (like high-fructose corn syrup and crystalline fructose) is a different story. This type of sugar can easily overload the liver. If you have to eat it, don’t exceed 25 grams.
Make substitutions for better carbs and less sugar
One of the easiest things you can do to reduce your sugar intake and keep your insulin levels under control is to substitute healthier carbohydrates for the ones containing more sugar and less fiber.
|Instead of This||Eat This|
|White pasta||Brown rice pasta
|Fruit juice||Green tea|
|Coffee with sugar||Coffee with stevia|
|Corn flakes||Slow-cooked oatmeal|
|Soda||Mineral water with citrus slices|
|Candy||Dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao)|
|After-dinner sweet||Chewing gum or breath mint|
|White bread||Whole-grain bread (and half the amount!)|
|Midafternoon junk food||Crunchy raw vegetables|
|Breakfast sweet roll or muffin||One slice of whole-grain toast topped with scrambled egg|
|Commercial trail mix||Handful of almonds|
|Pie||Apple slices with cheese|
|Cake||One slice of whole-grain cinnamon-raisin or cranberry toast with butter or low-fat cream cheese|
|Ice cream||Non-GMO popcorn (popped yourself, not commercial microwave popcorn in a bag)|