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Carbohydrates are probably one of the most misunderstood and maligned food groups today. Carbohydrates are essential. They are used as basic fuel for muscles, the brain, and the heart. Some carbohydrates are associated with obesity, heart disease, and even cancer, and those are probably the most commonly consumed carbohydrates in America. However, most carbohydrates are healthy, make you feel full, allow you to feel full longer, and are associated with longevity and a healthy lifestyle.

Eat the right carbohydrates and lose weight...the wrong ones increase weight

Examples of carbohydrates that should be included in your diet are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and beans. Carbohydrates that are likely to increase weight include candy, white breads, white rice, and many processed foods such as cakes, cookies, and cereals.

Processed food = pre-digested food

man at computer eating carbohydrates to lose weightIf you have not heard it before, many people who have been successful at weight loss avoided processed foods— or “the whites” as they are called; white flour, white sugar, white rice, white potatoes. Any food that contains these items are avoided, as they are high in calories and contribute to weight gain.

Processing of carbohydrates or other foods is an important step in the food distribution network. In order to save wheat and store it, we must process it (remove the nutrients) then enrich it (put the nutrients back). What processing does is break down the components of the food—by grinding, milling, boiling, or any one of another process. By breaking down food with large machines, such as milling devices, the machine is doing part of the work of the digestive system. The finer the flour, the faster it is absorbed, while whole grains are absorbed more slowly.

Think of processed foods as something that someone else chewed for you, and are now feeding you—kind of like the Eagle feeding its little ones. No, that picture is almost too cute. Think of your hairy, smelly caveman neighbor eating and regurgitating this food for you. Now, do you really want that?

Remember the old playground joke, “Hey you want some ABC gum?”

“Sure, love gum.”

At this point the kid takes the gum out of his mouth (its always a he, girls never do this) and hands it to you saying, “ABC is already been chewed.”

Processed foods—already been chewed

The body’s digestive tract is a complex machine designed to break down foods and allow the body to absorb food slowly over time. When food is broken down too quickly, and the blood sugar increases as a result, the body makes insulin to store that excess blood sugar as fat. If your body is allowed to break down foods slowly, then two important things happen: you do not become hungry as quickly, and your body uses more calories to digest the food.

The digestive tract is like any part of the body—it needs to be used, but you should limit feeding it foods that are “pre-digested.”

Glycemic Index number -  simple and complex carbohydrates

The old terms for carbohydrates were “simple” and “complex.” These terms have been replaced by the scientific studies done with glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly food breaks down in digestion and causes a rise in blood sugar. These foods are assigned numbers one through 100. The higher glycemic index foods are those that break down quickly. Pure sugar, glucose, is given the value of 100. White bread has a high glycemic number (70) but breads made with whole grains have a lower glycemic index.

Higher glycemic index foods (those with values of 70 or greater) are associated with obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. The only way to know about the glycemic index of a particular food is to look it up. A variety of books list the glycemic index of foods, as well as websites such as www.glycemicindex.com.

www.glycemicindex.com

The glycemic index is only meant for carbohydrates, it is not meant for meats, poultry, fats, or alcohol. We will discuss proteins, fats, and alcohols in separate chapters.

Strict avoidance of high glycemic index foods is one method of weight reduction, as is avoiding highly processed carbohydrates. However, by mixing high glycemic index foods with low glycemic index foods we do come up with an “average” glycemic index. For example, having a cookie with an apple decreases the overall glycemic index of the food you are eating. Essentially, if you eat a highly processed food such as a cookie, you should also have something that has a lower glycemic index, such as some raw vegetables or fruits.

You can eat most vegetables without thinking about their carbohydrate content...

...or their glycemic index. Those that you should watch out for are potatoes and corn, which have a higher glycemic index than most vegetables.

Legumes: These have universally low glycemic indexes...

... and are a good addition to your menu planning:

  • Black Beans—the glycemic index of 3/4-cup of black beans is 30. These make a great addition to an egg for breakfast, topped with some salsa. The beans are high in fiber, keeping you feeling fuller longer.
  •  Kidney Beans—the glycemic index of 1/2-cup of kidney beans (red) is 27. These are the beans used in chili, tacos, and other Southwest foods. They contain a lot of fiber, and have a lot of protein in them. Canned beans have a higher glycemic index (52). They are still a good source of fiber, iron, protein, and vitamins.
  • Lentil Soup—the glycemic index of one cup of Lentil Soup is 44. Soup is not something that fills you up and keeps you full, but it does digest slowly. Lentils contain a lot of fiber (5 grams) and only 24 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Navy Beans—the glycemic index of 1/2-cup of Navy beans is 38. Navy beans are used for making baked beans and are a good source of fiber (6 grams), with only 19 grams of carbohydrate. Many patients complain that these beans cause gas, which they do. However, it has been reported that the bacteria in the colon, which “eats” the undigested beans, are actually the “good” kind of bacteria.
  • Green Peas—the glycemic index of 1/2-cup of green peas is 48. Peas are high in protein and fiber (4 grams), for 11 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Soy Beans—the glycemic index of 1/2-cup of soybeans is 18. Many vegetarians use soybeans as a primary source of protein. In addition, soybeans contain fiber (5 grams), and are low in carbohydrates (10 grams). Many products made from soy beans (Boca burgers, morning star sausages) are tolerated well by early postoperative patients.

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This website hasn't been updated for many years. Some information is outdated. It uses Flash presentations that will not be visible on tablets or phones (they do present good information about the advantages of Lap-band surgery for active men). Please go to drsimpson.net to view up to date information about Lap-band and other weight loss surgeries we offer.

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