In last week’s article, we explored the differences between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates and even took a look at energy storage and the difference between regular caloric content and net caloric content (by examining the Thermic Effect and Glycaemic Index of foods).
So that brings us to another question — which is better: white or brown sugar; white or brown rice; white or whole wheat flour? The answer is that there is very little difference between any of those pairs, but, depending on your goals and your overall lifestyle, that small difference may still matter. There are 3 grades of sugar: raw (largely unprocessed — basically the type of brown sugar we get in Trinidad & Tobago), brown (processed to white and then molasses re-added — the type of brown sugar common in the USA) and white (processed). Likewise, with flour (raw would be akin to whole grain, brown would be akin to whole wheat — processed white and then some of the kernel/bran and germ re-added — and white) and with rice (raw/brown is whole rice grains and white is with kernel and germ removed). The white versions undergo a stripping of the “extra” minerals/nutrients/impurities. In the case of flour and rice, this means removal of the kernel and “germ” (germinating part of the grain) and, for sugar, chemical dissolution of molasses and other nutrient sources. This is followed by a bleaching and/or polishing process (this may leave trace chemicals). This means that whatever minor nutritional value there is in the raw form (fibre and other vitamins and minerals), it is removed and this increases the GI by a minute amount. Additionally, any trace chemicals left by the processing could potentially be harmful.
The last question is, do you really need carbs? Yes and no. Carbs, being the easiest source of energy for the body to access, are basically the ideal go-to food group when you have any sort of activity (physical or mental) to do. However, both fats and proteins are needed as well (for various reasons). Energy-wise, carbs serve to provide the energy for all other activity that may use fats and proteins as raw materials. However, there are various diets that have reduced carb intake to a mere fraction of the norm. The idea is that if there aren’t a large amount of carbohydrates in your system, the body will be forced to go to fats for energy, thus burning some of the subcutaneous fats in the system. The safety (and exact method of function) of these diets is debatable, but, thus far, no research has conclusively shown them to be harmful, although there are usually warnings for people with certain conditions. In general, one should stick to the macronutrient ratios that are specified for your specific lifestyle.
However, if you want to lose weight, the easiest macronutrient to limit (but not remove) is carbohydrates. Completely removing all carbs may throw your body’s natural metabolic pathways off for a while (until the body gets used to it). In fact, there are very few (if any) diets that call for a complete removal of carbohydrates. By limiting your carbohydrate intake, you can still get some small amount of ready-to-use energy (from the little bit of carbs that you do ingest) while reducing your overall caloric intake and maintaining healthy levels of fat and protein. Happy Eating 🙂