Carbohydrates are biomolecules which count as one of the 3 macronutrients (the other 2 being protein and fat) provided through our daily diet and essential for fundamental body functions.They are the main source of energy required by the body and should sum to 45-65% of our daily dietary calories. They are broken down in the body into simple sugars like glucose that forms the fuel for cellular activities.
Should I cut out carbohydrates from my diet?
Cutting our carbohydrates from our diet would mean eliminating the main energy source. In such situations, firstly, body starts using up fats and proteins for energy production (which means higher requirement of fat in our diet) and secondly, it may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Also, cutting out carbohydrates may not necessary facilitate in weight loss since your body will be replenishing the same calories through fats and proteins!
A wiser option is to choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, etc. over simple ones and lower the consumption of sweets and sugar loaded unhealthy junk food.
What are Good carbs and Bad carbs?
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy required by the body and should sum to 45-65% of our daily dietary calories. Being one of the macronutrients, carbohydrates essentially cannot be bad per say! although, the type of carbohydrates we choose to consume has impact on our health.
Carbohydrates can be categorized into simple and complex, depending on the complexity of their chemical structure.
Complex carbohydrates are unprocessed carbs with high starch and fibre content, for example, whole grains like millets and brown rice, legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables. They have a higher thermic effect of feeding (TEF) because they require a more complex breakdown process before being used by the body.
Simple carbohydrates are processed, refined, devoid of fibre and other essential nutrients (like sweets, refined flour, aerated drinks, etc.), and essentially add up to empty calories. For the main reason that complex carbs get absorbed slowly by the body and prevent blood glucose spikes, these should be chosen over their processed counterparts which present long-term health issues like metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disorders, obesity and diabetic complications, to name a few.
Are carbohydrates more filling than proteins?
Fullness is basically a perception of how much you are eating. This perception comes from mainly 2 stimuli.
To answer this question we need to first understand how macronutrients are processed in the body.
If we look into the calorific value of each macro, fat carries 9 calories per gram and much to the surprise of those who have been thinking that protein gives you less calories than carbs, both protein and carbs contain 4 calories per gram! This also means, calorifically both proteins and carbs provide you with equal chances of gaining weight. But we shall leave this topic to our future posts and walk back to the digestion process for now. Only about 5 to 15% of the calories coming from fats and carbs are utilized to digest them while proteins suck in almost 20-30% of those calories for their digestion, an intrinsically cumbersome process. Proteins are made up of amino acids that aid in protein synthesis, tissue repair, synthesis of neurotransmitters, antibody production and oxygen transport, to name a few. These amino acids are held together by strong peptide bonds and folded into complex conformations that require an enormous amount of energy to be broken. Which means our digestive system has to work harder and for longer, using up extra energy as compared to structurally simpler polysaccharides that are easier to break down into simple sugars. Also, most of the high protein foods are high on fiber quotient too, making the digestion process again, harder and longer.
Besides these factors, proteins and carbs are also known to suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin and a hormone controlling satiety, GLP-1 more than fats do. A randomized crossover trial with 36 men and women as subjects was conducted to ‘examine the effects of liquid meals varying protein, carbs and fat, on appetite hormones, self-rated appetite and calorie intake.’ The results blaringly skewed towards a high protein-medium carb-low fat meal for suppressing ghrelin, increasing the circulating levels of GLP-1 and lowering appetite. To read a detailed version of the trial conducted please visit http://alivebynature.com/protein-reduces-appetite-more-than-carbs-and-fat/
This explains why protein foods stay on for longer in our system giving us a higher sense of fullness and satiety relative to carbohydrates.
So stay protein-wise, and trust your “gut-feeling”!