When peas are young, they are sweet. As
they get older, they get starchier; in vegetables, the sugar converts into
Grain foods (wheat, rice, corn, oats)
also store their energy as complex strands of sugar molecules, a starch. The
starch breaks down into individual sugar molecules (glucose) during digestion.
Hence, your muscles dont care if you eat sugars or starches for fuel
because they both digest into the same simple sugar: glucose.
The difference between sugars and
starches comes in their nutritional value and impact on your health. Some
sugars and starches are healthier than others. For example, the sugar in orange
juice is accompanied by vitamin C, folate and potassium. The sugar in orange
soda pop is void of vitamins and minerals; that's why it's described as "empty
The starch in whole wheat bread is
accompanied by fiber and B-vitamins. The starch in white breads has lost many
health protective nutrients during the refining process. White bread provides
muscle fuel, but fewer vitamins.
Q. If carbs arent fattening,
why do high-protein diets "work"?
A. High-protein diets seemingly
"work" because ...
1. The dieter loses water weight.
Carbs hold water in the muscles. For each ounce of carbohydrate you stored as
glycogen, your body simultaneously stores 3 ounces of water. When you deplete
carbs during exercise, your body releases the water, and you experience a
significant loss of weight that's mostly water, not fat.
2. People eliminate a lot of
calories when they eliminate carbohydrates. For example, you might eliminate
not only the baked potato (200 calories) but also two pats of butter (100
calories) on top of the potato and this creates a calorie deficit.
3. Protein tends to be more
satiating than carbohydrate. That is, protein (and fat) lingers longer in the
stomach than carbohydrate does. Hence, having high-protein (and fat) eggs and
bacon for breakfast stays with you longer than does a high-carb bagel with jam.
By curbing hunger, you have fewer urges to eat and can more easily cut calories
until you start to crave carbs and binge eat.
The overwhelming reason why high-protein
diets do NOT work is that dieters fail to stay on them for a long time. They
may lose weight, but only to regain it.
The trick to losing weight is to learn
how to manage the American food supply so you won't regain the weight.
Remember: You should never start a food program you do not want to maintain for
the rest of your life. Do you really want to never eat breads, potato or
crackers ever again????
Q. Ive heard white bread is
"poison." Do you agree?
A. White bread offers lackluster
nutrition, but it is not "poison" nor a "bad" food. White bread can be balanced
into an overall wholesome diet. That is, if you have bran cereal for breakfast
and brown rice for dinner, your diet can healthfully accommodate a sandwich
made on white pita for lunch.
White bread's reputation for being
"poison" is partially because of its high glycemic effect. That is, 200
calories of white bread quickly digests and causes the blood glucose (blood
sugar) to elevate higher than would the same amount of a whole grain,
High blood glucose triggers the body to
secrete insulin to carry the sugar out of the blood. Insulin can stimulate the
appetite, as well as fat deposition.
If you are physically fit, however, your
muscles readily store the sugar as glycogen with the need of much less insulin.
Hence, active people can handle high-carb foods and have less need to worry
about a food's glycemic effect.
Q. Should I choose foods based on
their glycemic effect?
A. As a general trend, yes. Foods
with a low glycemic effect tend to be wholesome, fiber-rich fruits, vegetables
and whole grains that are health-protective and satiating. They can curb the
appetite and help with weight management.
Yet, the glycemic response to a food
varies from person to person, as well as from meal to meal (depending on the
combinations of foods eaten). Experiment to learn what food combinations
satisfy you and offer lasting energy.
Copyright 2002 Nancy Clark, MS,