Monday, June 28, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Truth About Carbs, Day 1

Christopher Warden is a dear friend and an amazing personal trainer. One of the best I might add, as he was crucial to me regaining my pre-baby body (it ain't exactly the same, but he helped me become stronger than i ever had been). I have asked him to write a little something for The Table of Promise this week while I am on vaca and so I have two lovely postings about his expertise on Carbohydrates, that most misunderstood of nutrients. You can find Christopher at his various websites, and and also Thank You, Christopher!!


Finding information about ‘what to eat’ and ‘how to be healthy’ is easy . . .

. . . knowing what info is trustworthy and high-quality is another matter altogether. The topic of carbohydrates illustrates a perfect example of this. So much is written about them, but millions remain confused, if not misinformed.

How do I know?

Well, aside from the time I spend educating myself on nutrition -- wading through volumes of confusing and conflicting information – I spend the better part of each day fielding questions from clients who are trying to get a handle on the topic so that they can optimize their performance, aesthetics and health.

And the questions (debates?) never stop.

Not from my clients – from everywhere. I hear people debating about carbohydrates all over the gym floor. I hear conversations in the street. On the subway. In restaurants. On Oprah . . . and I rarely watch Oprah.

So, as a way to help curb the confusion about carbohydrates (and to make it easier for me to relay the information without getting a sore throat from talking incessantly), I’ve put together this report on the topic.

To keep things simple – and to keep the reading light – the report is written in Q & A format . . . It’s just me, answering questions as if you and I were sitting down having a conversation together. Part One aims at ‘defining carbohydrate and it’s components’ (sugar, starch and fiber) – a technical FYI, if you will; Part Two focuses on answering the questions most commonly asked about carbohydrates, including the types to eat . . . and why.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions or comments after reading, please feel free to contact me at

Part One -- What the #@*% Is A Carbohydrate? And Why Do We Discuss Them So Often?

Q: What is a carbohydrate?

A: Carbohydrate:

· is one of six nutrients utilized by the body. (The other five are protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.)

· exists in simple or complex form. Simple carbohydrate is sugar. Complex carbohydrates (simple carbohydrates linked together) are known as starch and fiber.

· is primarily used as a fuel source. The building block for (nearly) all carbohydrates - the simple sugar glucose - is a universal source of fuel for all cells, particularly the brain.

Q: Where are carbohydrates found?

A: Anything containing sugar, starch or fiber is a carbohydrate. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, candy, rice and potatoes are considered most often, but it's safe to say that every food source from the plant kingdom (leaves, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fungi) - as well as nuts and dairy products - contains carbohydrates.

Q: What is sugar?

A: Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It either "stands alone" - as sugars like sucrose (cane/table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (malt beverages), fructose (fruit/corn sugar) and glucose (blood sugar) - or it's linked together in chains to create the complex carbohydrates -- starch and fiber.

Q: What's the difference between sugar, starch and fiber?

A: Sugar, as mentioned above, is the simplest form of carbohydrate and requires little/no processing before being absorbed and used as a fuel source the body. Sugar (especially glucose) is also the building block for starch and fiber.

Starch is a complex carbohydrate that can be broken down, absorbed and used by the body.

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is unable to be broken down and absorbed by the body.

Q: Are carbohydrates essential for survival?

A: Contrary to common belief, carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient for survival. Is it tolerable and usable? Absolutely. But if carbohydrates were unavailable to us, we could get/create all the energy we needed from fat and protein. (That being said, every individual has his/her particular needs – some can tolerate only minimal, fibrous carbohydrate . . . while others thrive on higher proportions of starch in their diet. It is incumbent on each individual to listen to his/her body (hopefully one that’s healthy!) and understand it needs.)

Q: Why are carbohydrates such a significant topic of conversation?

A: Countless studies show that one of the key factors to health and fitness is the control of insulin - the hormone whose primary role is to regulate blood sugar levels. Chronic, excessive consumption of starches and sugars - something very easily accomplished with the prevalence of grains and processed foods - contributes to chronic, excessive secretion of insulin. This, in turn, has been linked to many of the diseases of civilization: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, colitis and cancer, to name a few. Carbohydrates are and will remain an important topic of discussion as professionals educate the masses about the ideal carbohydrate sources for controlling blood sugar, insulin release and overall health.

Tomorrow Christopher will answer the two most common questions about carbohydrates.

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