Carbohydrates have been a polarizing staple of diet science for what feels like forever. While most dieticians agree that the biomolecules are essential for healthy development, a much smaller majority agree about the extent to which they should be present in a balanced meal.
The Official Dietary Guideline for Americans recommends adults receive half of their daily calorie intake from carbs though some experts believe portions should be influenced by the specific physiological characteristics of each individual.
In either case there are healthy ways to secure said value and unhealthy ways to neutralize its potential.
This is the source of the controversy. There are many different sub-classes of the macronutrient and each serves or hinders various biological functions.
Now more than ever, it’s important to expel agents studied to compromise immunization. In this regard, carbohydrates are especially relevant.
With the exception of fiber, carbohydrates provide energy after being transformed into glucose upon consumption or later on in the form of fat stores. FIber facilities important gut bacteria that enable us to absorb and make use of important minerals and substances.
In nutrition, carbs can be categorized three different ways:
Sugars: Short-chain carbohydrates like glucose, fructose, galactose, and sucrose.
Starches: Long chains of molecules that break down into glucose during digestion.
Fiber: These carbs cannot be digested by humans which makes them uniquely useful for the bacteria residing in our gastrointestinal tract.
There is another salient distinction among the classifications above: Simple and Complex carbohydrates, alternatively referred to as Whole or Refined carbohydrates.
Whole carbs are unprocessed and contain fiber found naturally in food. Think fruit, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains i.e healthy carb sources.
Refined carbs have been processed and stripped of their natural fiber. Think fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, and white rice i.e unhealthy carb sources.
There’s yet another classification that informs the degree to which bad carbs are bad for those who consume them with any sort of regularity.
White bread might not be the healthiest source for the nutrient but it does offer a justifiable portion of the health benefits associated with its tanner cousin. Fast carbs like french fries and pizza dough, on the other hand, offer a heaping of setbacks without the benefits.
“The chemical structure of the wheat in most processed foods has been transformed into a “fast carb.” The extremely long chains of starch in whole grain are pummeled, using industrial techniques, into much shorter chains. When we eat them, they flood our complex digestive system with glucose molecules that are swiftly absorbed by the body. They come to us essentially predigested,” David Kessler Former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration explained in a new report.
Kessler goes on to detail sobering tactics employed by ad agencies trying to capitalize on a “health boom” while maintaining its stable of junk food junkies.
Thanks to buzz words like whole grain and organic manufacturers are able to maneuver around pesky nutrition labels. It’s not uncommon to see phrases like Made with real ingredients! headline fine print composed of categorically unhealthy ingredients. This is especially easy to do with carbohydrates because they’re in most things and the public is collectively unsure about which words separate the good from the bad.
Leading the blind are the millions of willfully self-destructive middle class Americans too encumbered by rising household debt, unemployment rates, and sharp mental decline to be fussed about parsing through a grocery list every week.
The average American consumes over 1,000 calories of unhealthy fast carbohydrates and sugars every day and receives an additional 500 from the fats and oils added to many of these foods.
“Processed carbohydrates have become a staple of the American diet, and the consequences are wreaking havoc on our bodies,” Kessler continued.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really emphasized the liabilities associated with these numbers. By and large, those who have succumbed to critical forms of the disease are patients with underlying conditions caused by poor eating habits.
Although a wealthy nation with as many resources as the US should be well defended against pathogens in the 21st century, few insiders were blindsided by SARS Cov-2’s rapid progression.
“The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic,” Bill Gates said in a Ted Talk from 2015.
Once we’re on the other side of this horrific black swan conflagration it’s important we don’t forget about the factors that stoked the flame. Policy concessions on universal healthcare need to be made on behalf of our elected officials and nutritional guidelines need to be adhered to on behalf of the rest of us.
“From a tangle of intricate science, then, a simple strategy emerges. Our best path to health comprises three basic steps: limit fast carbs, exercise with moderate intensity, and lower LDL levels. Following these recommendations will change our nation’s health as significantly as reducing tobacco use has done,” Kessler concludes.
When the next health crisis inevitably occurs, let’s hope the national response resembles a process more than a race.