Dr. Manny's Notes: The "Skinny" on Good Carbs

Carbohydrates (meaning "carbon plus water") are the most efficient fuel for your body. They provide steady healthy energy. Along with fat and protein, carbohydrates are an essential nutrient. The two major forms of carbs are_ simple sugars (simple carbohydrates), found in sugars such as fructose, glucose, and lactose, as well as in nutritious whole fruits; and starches (complex carbohydrates), found in foods such as starchy vegetables, grains, rice, and bread and cereals.

What makes carbs different from other essential nutrients (fat and protein) is that they are easily converted to energy by the body. Furthermore, the simplest carbohydrate, glucose, is essential fuel for the brain and muscles. When glucose is absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream, blood-glucose levels increase, and your pancreas begins to secrete insulin to help get that sugar out of the blood and to the brain and muscles. The problem occurs when too much glucose over-whelms the metabolism. In other words, if you regularly eat great amounts of foods with refined starches and sugars-the bad carbs-the pancreas makes too much insulin and the blood sugar drops too far, which, in turn, makes you feel hungry. Furthermore, muscle cells will stop taking in the glucose, and so more of this sugar will be stored as fat, which will result in weight gain.

GOOD CARB FOODS:Complex carbohydrates are the good carbs. Among good carbs are high-fiber, low-sugar fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole oatmeal and all other whole grains, and all types of beans (a Latin staple!). Sweet potatoes, brown rice, grapefruit, fat-free milk (organic and in moderation, please), whole grain pasta (also in moderation), and apples, like other good carbs, cause a gradual rise in blood-sugar levels, which is optimal for sustained energy, mental clarity and focus, and a balanced mood. Also, eating good carbs will help curb your cravings for bad carbs, which in turn can help you avoid chemical imbalances in the brain that can cause depression.

NOTE:I always recommend buying organic products, because they're free of potentially harmful ingredients.