Are Carbohydrates Unhealthy?

June 25, 2019
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Hello! Dr. Alvi here,

Are carbohydrates unhealthy?

This is one of the most common questions my patients ask me. In order to answer this question, lets start by taking a look at what carbohydrates actually are.

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients our bodies need. The other two are fat and protein. Each macronutrient serves its own specific function and all three are a vital source of nutrition. It is important to remember that many Whole Foods have some combination of these three macronutrients.

When evaluating the carbohydrate content of a food, its important to look at the TYPE of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates can be broken down into complex and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in naturally occurring unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as health promoting whole grains and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are found in both unhealthy processed or refined foods and health promoting fruits.

Grains can be broken down to whole grains and refined grains. We can use the schematic of a whole grain and refined grain above to understand the difference between the two types.

As you can see, a WHOLE grain (shown on the left) is full of fiber, nutrients, minerals, and phytochemicals while a REFINED grain is stripped away of some of the most nutritional components of the grain. The refined grain (shown on the right) is devoid of the beneficial bran and germ layers and left with the higher carbohydrate endosperm.

Studies have shown that those eating WHOLE grains have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and even premature death. Those eating refined carbohydrates may increase their risk of the same chronic diseases.

So in summary, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Eating a doughnut is NOT the same as eating Kale or Oatmeal. Complex carbohydrate and Whole grain options are Quinoa, Brown rice, Oats, and Amaranth.

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Saadia Alvi, MD believes in the power of both evidence-based conventional and lifestyle medical approaches to prevent, manage and treat endocrine conditions. After 13 years of practice, she opened her membership-based care practice to help her patients actively pursue better health.

Her practice is based on conventional evidence-based medicine. An Endocrinology Specialist, she is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in the specialties of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

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