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Carbohydrates in the Modern Diet

If you have ever been on special diet, there is a high chance that it was low in carbohydrates. For those who do not know, carbohydrates are defined as any of a group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses, and gums and they serve as a major energy source in the diet of animals.

Whenever you consume carbohydrates, your body secretes insulin, the hormone that is responsible for transporting the glucose molecules into cells for metabolism into energy that your body uses for daily activities. When you eat large amounts of carbohydrates, a lot of insulin will need to be secreted to remove the glucose from your bloodstream and this insulin spike results in you feeling extremely tired.

This overproduction of insulin also leads to further carbohydrate cravings, forcing people to eat even when they have already had enough to eat. The modern human diet comprises far more carbohydrates than one needs for healthy living.

Think about the last time you ordered pasta at a restaurant. The chances are that the portion you were served was more than enough for two people. American portion sizes have gotten out of control, and people just think that that is the amount of food they are supposed to be eating. This excessive consumption of carbohydrates is contributing to the obesity epidemic.

There are different types of carbohydrates in the modern diet – sugars or simple carbohydrates and starch or complex carbohydrates.

Sugars can exist in the natural or refined form. Natural sugars would be those found in fruits and vegetables, and are good for you, while refined sugars are those found in junk foods such as cookies, cakes and pastries, chocolate, honey and jams, jellies, brown and white cane sugar, pizzas, prepared foods and sauces, soft drinks, sweets and snack bars.

Complex carbohydrates are found in bananas, barley, beans, brown rice, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, parsnips, potatoes, root vegetables, sweet corn, whole grain cereals, and whole meal breads, whole meal cereals, whole meal flour, whole meal pasta, yams. Complex carbohydrates are recommended as the preferable source of carbohydrates since they are high in fiber, but many people consume mostly refined carbohydrates either because of convenience or a better taste.

Historically, the carbohydrates that the ancestors of humans fed on were mostly in the form of raw vegetables, nuts, roots and fruits with only 1% of their carbohydrate intake coming from the consumption of whole cereal grains. However, with the development of food technology and processing, 59% of the carbohydrate intake in the modern human diet comes from refined grains, while 23% comes from refined/artificial sugars and sweeteners, and only 23% comes from vegetables, nuts, fruits and legumes.

This is a huge change from the ancestral diet. There has also been a large increase in the number of obese individuals in the world, with many located in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one third of the American adult population is now obese, and an appalling 17% of America’s children and adolescents are obese.

These statistics are alarming. Scientists are consistently researching in efforts to discover what the leading causes of obesity are. While the U.S. government has told people since 1970 that it is saturated fat that is the leading dietary cause of obesity, recent research is actually pointing towards an excessive consumption of processed or refined carbohydrates that is contributing to the obesity epidemic in America.

While research is continuous, and new discoveries replace old discoveries all the time, it is important to be aware of the current information on topics such as these, and attempt to live accordingly for a healthy life. The next time you order a burger and fries, and feel the lethargy set in after consumption of that meal, consider if you really needed to eat that much carbohydrates, and think about how great it would be if you could eat a meal and feel amazingly energetic afterwards instead of wanting to sleep.

People need carbohydrates for the proper functioning of the nervous system, but it is essential to keep track of the type of carbohydrates you consume, as well as how much of it you consume. The original USDA Food Pyramid has unfortunately neglected for years to highlight what type of carbohydrates those recommended 6-11 servings should come from… stick to complex carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables.

Hopefully this article has provided useful information for you, and you are able to recognize what carbohydrates are present in the modern diet, and what you should and should not be consuming.