Low Carb Foods

What You Should Know About Low Carb Foods

There is no formal definition of the phrase “Low Carb Food.” A carb, or carbohydrate, is defined as a large group of sugars, starches, cellulose, and gums, which have similar proportions of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Carbohydrates affect the body in the same way: the body uses carbs by converting them to glucose-a simple sugar-for energy. Some examples of carbohydrates include: pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, sugar, honey, and many fruits.

How do Carbohydrates affect the body?

Carbs are broken down in the intestine to glucose or sugar. When sugar enters the bloodstream, blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas then secretes insulin which tells the cells to absorb the sugar. When the sugar is absorbed, the blood sugar and insulin levels return to normal. People with Diabetes or Insulin resistence react differently. Their cells either do not make enough insulin or the cells do not absorb the sugar. Therefore, sugar and insulin level can remain very high. This can cause excess weight to accumulate (in the case of Type II Diabetes and Insulin Resistence) and eventually the body may become incapable of producing insulin at all.

What is a Low Carb Diet?

These diets, like: Atkins, South Beach, the Zone Diet, and Sugar Busters, help to regulate weight and blood sugar levels. The diets classify foods on a Glycemic Index, which determines how the individual food will affect blood sugar levels. Foods with low GI levels-low carb foods-do not raise blood sugar levels much. Foods with a high GI cause blood sugar levels to rise. Some of the foods listed as “Low GI” are: Proteins (meat, poultry, eggs, legumes), Fats (seeds, nuts, oils), and non-starchy vegetables (sprouts, greens, broccoli, cabbage, mushroom, and onions). Some fruits are also considered “Low GI” by these diets, although fruits contain more sugar and rate higher on the index than vegetables, fats, and proteins. Some of these fruits include: cranberries, strawberries, grapefruit, and melon. The diets often begin in a “Restriction” phase where the higher GI foods are avoided completely. As a person’s weight lowers, the higher GI foods are gradually re-introduced.

Other Important Facts

Currently, the FDA advises that 55-60% of total caloric intake come from carbohydrates. People following a low carb diet consume fewer than that depending on the plan they follow. Foods with higher fiber content, even if they are starchy foods, register lower on the GI because the body works harder to digest them. Along with that, foods that are highly processed, like white bread, sugar, and many cereals, automatically register higher on the GI because they are consumed in an already broken-down state. Research suggests that regardless of where a food lies on the GI-be it high carb, or low carb- it is the total caloric intake that has the greatest effect on weight, blood sugar level, and digestion of food.

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