Are carbs "bad" for me?

Sugar is a main component of the food we consume. However, too much sugar can negatively impact our physique, stress, cravings and overall health. What is sugar? Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Despite the accusations, carbohydrates are vital to your health for several reasons. They are your body’s main fuel source, fibre (also in the carbohydrate family) protects against disease, and carbs can help with weight control. The selection of carbohydrates is important as you should eat plenty of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables along with whole grains. The issue is surrounding refined carbohydrates such as pastries, sodas, and other highly processed foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to overeating, weight gain and promote diabetes and other diseases. Refined carbs have almost all their fibre and vitamins removed thus being considered “empty” calories. However, it is crucial to understand the importance of quality carbohydrates. The controversies surrounding carbohydrates arise from added sugars and artificial sweeteners. In times of stress, we typically favour food high in sugar content such as snacks and fast food. These comfort foods may act as a form of self-medication to avoid unwanted stress. During stress, we release a hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels, in combination with increased blood sugar and insulin may be responsible for increased intake of foods high in sugar. This is because sugar is associated with dopamine release in the reward areas of our brain. Dopamine is a “feel good” hormone, which counteracts stress and promotes further consumption of these foods. Since fruits and vegetables don’t cause the brain to release as much dopamine, your brain starts to want more sugar in the form of junk food to receive the same feelings of pleasure. Stress not only causes over-eating but also is associated with fatigue, less exercise, and more alcohol consumption, all of which contributes to excess weight gain.

Research reveals that significant amounts of sugar, specifically high fructose can interfere with feelings of satiety. This means that you will still feel hungry, which will contribute to increased food intake. This can cause possible weight gain and risk of type two diabetes.

The concerns of excess sugar intake have translated into an attraction to low-calorie artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are food additives that duplicate the effect of sugar in taste but are often low-calorie. There are some benefits to using artificial sweeteners. They give people the opportunity to eat the same foods they would normally consume, while allowing them to lose weight due to a low-calorie intake. In relation to overall health, those with diabetes often substitute for these sweeteners to avoid difficult regulating their blood sugar. However, there is controversy on whether the usage poses health risks. Research has shown that sweeteners cause increased body weight because they contribute to increased food intake as a response to the sweet taste without the contribution of calories to reduce hunger. Ultimately, the goal is a well-balanced diet. These controversies prove that excessive intake of sugar or artificial sweeteners can contribute to weight gain and pose health risks.

Exercise is one of the best treatments for stress. A long-term commitment to exercise reduces cortisol levels over time. Meditation in the form of exercise, such as yoga, may help to reduce stress and help people become more mindful of food choices. Frequent exercise helps regulate body weight, reduce stress, avoid cravings and contributes to a reduction in disease risk. Overall, it is essential to know the importance of carbohydrates in a balanced diet and to be informed of the difference between refined carbohydrates along with sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Articles, LifestyleEmilie Trottier