Carbohydrates or Carbs is the new boogie man of nutrition, even more so than fats though there are groups on both sides that disdain both of them with equal fervor. Most of the time though there is some type of qualifier and in the case of carbs that would be simple versus complex. Simple carbs are things like sugar, you know the real bad stuff in a super refined state. On the other side complex carbs are things like Spinach. That is a pretty wide spectrum to paint with a very broad brush. That is where diets lose me and ultimately lose most people. This is also where I very noticeably depart from people that think my approach is similar to the Paleo Diet, well that and the fact that the word diet implies restriction but I digress. While the Paleo Diet proponents might suggest they are not against carbs and have a heavy vegetable component to their diet there is one vegetable that is clearly Paleo that they lose their mind over, that vegetable is the potato. That is because the potato is very high in carbs. Certainly if Paleolithic man had come across a potato he would not have hesitated to eat it. Which is where all this Paleolithic Man and Caveman talk falls apart. So let’s be clear, the Paleo Diet, especially for people without a lot of activity is a decidedly low carb approach. Which is fine but it’s really just a version of Atkins with a few more vegetables. Fair? I think the Paleo Diet is a fine diet if you want to be on a diet and you want to restrict your intake by eating certain foods (it needs a few tweaks for active people), I do not personally think that is necessary but if you are in pain as it relates to weight issues and you would rather not count calories many people have had great success restricting what they eat using those rules. That group includes me at one point.
Or, you can eat lean meats (or meats high in Omega 3’s), vegetables and some fruit. Even the dreaded potato can be eaten on occasion given those parameters without a great deal of consequence, I can assure you that is very difficult to become obese eating like that. That said if you start your day eating hash browns, eat some potato chips with lunch and mashed potatoes for dinner the issue is not the potato it is that you are a moron. You are eating a nutrient deficient diet and unless your head has been underwater for the last thirty years you are likely well aware of that fact.
So now that we have cleared that up let’s move on.
While there are no bad foods, excessive intake of sugar is close
Sugar has no nutrients and depletes your body of vital nutrients because it requires your body to hold excessive fluid without the value of added vitamins (micronutrients).
Feel free to hit me with any questions in the comments on this point but I think this is fairly clear and should allow us to move on relatively easily.
Anything that ends in ‘Ose is a sugar, it is the delivery method that matters
Sucrose is what is commonly thought of as “table sugar”, Lactose is the sugar in milk, Fructose is the sugar in fruit and Dextrose is sugar that is exclusively glucose. All sugars are inflammation foods because they generate a lot of insulin and to process them your body retains fluids, this is just a natural process within the body, it only becomes problematic when it happens too often. On a side note when you have sugar cravings it is typically a symptom of protein deficiency, I would personally make the argument that it is nutrient deficiency in general that is causing the cravings but it is pretty clear that when you eat protein in most instances where you have sugar cravings they go away. You are welcome, now you know one of the biggest ways to control your weight. With that said if you are a highly active individual exercising with intensity and your carbohydrate intake is excessively low it can cause you hormonal problems that will result in using your muscle for energy and retention of fat.
Sucrose is a disaccharide composed of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. It offers you nothing from a nutrient perspective but it does enhance the flavor of things that do provide your body good nutrients, the brain also REALLY likes sucrose and it can be a quick energy source if you are lethargic. That comes with some additional costs but temporarily it can provide you with some joy. Denying the fact that sugar makes things taste better is one of the problems with diets because none of them really embrace sugar. I personally do not eat a lot of sugar but I do eat it, it is literally in everything from salad dressings to mayonnaise and of course the obvious sweets we all enjoy so much.
Lactose is the sugar in milk, Lactose is a disaccharide derived from the condensation of galactose and glucose. You could really argue that it is a worse sugar than Sucrose because it has more issues. Many people are intolerant towards Lactose and do not know it, I personally am not lactose intolerant but if I consume a decent amount of milk I definitely feel run down. I have recently been diagnosed with an allergy towards milk protein, while the symptosms aren’t extreme and don’t require me to abstain from dairy completely I suspect there are many people walking around without this knowledge. Milk is commonly thought to be good for you because, well, they have pretty good marketers that tell you this over and over. Add Vitamin D supplementation and the dairy industry looks like a knight in shining armor. Another often overlooked issue with lactose as it relates to sugar is how easy it is to consume, while people have been distracted by the low fat versus 2% vs whole debate the sugar element is completely overlooked. Think of how silly that is, people are focused on drinking low fat milk with no regard at all for the sugar in milk. I will talk more about insulin sensitivity in a later chapter but as a short primer insulin is a building hormone, when your insulin levels are raised your body is more likely to build, sometimes this means fat storage but can also mean muscle building. This is one of the reasons chocolate milk is often recommended as a good post workout option.
Fructose is the sugar that you get from fruit. The debate on whether or it is better or worse for you is almost irrelevant because it is the delivery method of the sugar that takes precedence here. In the case of sucrose you have sugar totally refined, lactose is not dissimilar in the way it gets you the sugar. Fruit is different because your body in an effort to get you the sugar first needs to break down the food part with all of those extra vitamins and nutrients, do not misunderstand me, the sugar is still not great for you but the other parts of the food provide you benefits that make fruit worth eating (I feel like I need to say on occasion here but I will talk more about this in the next section on carbohydrates).
High Fructose Corn Syrup is a very powerful form of sugar derived from corn, many people mistakenly believe that corn is good for you because they think it is a vegetable. In fact, corn is a grain and the syrup derived from this grain is an insulin nightmare.
You should notice that all sugars have some combination of glucose (or in the case of Dextrose exclusively glucose), this is an important sugar as it relates to muscle energy and I will talk further about it in the chapters on activity. It alternatively is called Dextrose or any of it’s derivatives. As a teaser I will say that for athletes all sugars do not act equally, as an example fructose refills liver glycogen as a priority while glucose (or dextrose, one of the sugars in gatorade) has a more direct relationship with muscle glycogen.
I tried to stay unbiased as it relates to sugar but if you can become pretty conscious of your sugar intake that will go a long way to controlling your waistline, energy and overall health. Sugar of course is not the problem for most people because they are well aware that too much sugar intake could have bad results. So in that way people naturally regulate their sugar intake in a lot of ways, some of those ways unfortunately end up with other consequences.