The Untold Truth About Carbohydrates and What to Eat Instead

Carbohydrates provide a body with the energy required to help with day-to-day body functions. However, not all carbs are created equal, and in fact, too many carbs can have serious side effects. In particular, refined carbohydrates lack the nutrients a body needs such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Understanding the risks of eating processed carbs can motivate some to make better decisions and perhaps go on a high-fat, low carb diet as opposed to filling up on refined carbohydrates day after day. In the Body Reboot book, we discuss why it’s so important to get healthy and how to get there. You may think it’s impossible to quick eating processed carbs now, but eliminating bad carbs can help in more ways than one.

SFGate mentions a study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 that revealed that being at risk for a stroke is more likely while on a high carb diet.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 analyzed the eating habits and instances of stroke in over 64,000 middle-aged Chinese women with no history of diabetes, cancer or heart disease. The researchers found a significant link between diets rich in refined grains and stroke risk. Another study, published in Genetics Research in 2015 linked a high-carbohydrate diet with abdominal obesity. Fat that accumulates in this area is associated with heart disease, certain types of cancer and stroke.

Healthline mentions the same study and also cites additional studies that tell us that eating too many refined carbs can have disastrous effects:

Heart disease is incredibly common, and currently the world's biggest killer.

Type 2 diabetes is another very common disease, affecting about 300 million people worldwide.

People with type 2 diabetes have a high risk of developing heart disease.

Studies show that a high consumption of refined carbs is linked with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. These are some of the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Refined carbs also increase blood triglyceride levels. This is a risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

One study in Chinese adults showed that over 85% of the total carbohydrate intake came from refined carbs, mainly white rice and refined wheat products.

The study also showed that people who ate the most refined carbs were two to three times more likely to get heart disease, compared to those who ate the least.

Harvard discusses the impact that carbs have on blood sugar and further explain how it can lead to type 2 diabetes.

When people eat food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.

As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.
As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall.
When this happens, the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar.
This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar.
Carbohydrate metabolism is important in the development of type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body can’t make enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it makes.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually over a number of years, beginning when muscle and other cells stop responding to insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, causes blood sugar and insulin levels to stay high long after eating. Over time, the heavy demands made on the insulin-making cells wears them out, and insulin production eventually stops.

It’s shocking to find out just how much sugar is in the standard American diet, and if you haven’t tried cutting sugar from your diet, you may not be aware just how much of an impact it has on you.

What Are the Bad Carbs?
“Added” sugars
Refined “white” grains
There’s no way to sugarcoat the truth: Americans are eating more sugar than ever before. In fact, the average adult takes in about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day, according to the USDA’s recent nationwide food consumption survey. That’s about 320 calories, which can quickly up to extra pounds. Many adults simply don’t realize how much added sugar is in their diets.

Sugars and refined grains and starches supply quick energy to the body in the form of glucose. That’s a good thing if your body needs quick energy, for example if you’re running a race or competing in sports.

The better carbs for most people are unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods that contain natural sugars, like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk.

Avoid Excess “Added Sugars”
“Added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners, are sugars and syrups that are added to foods at the table or during processing or preparation (such as high fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages and baked products),” explains Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman with the American Dietetic Association.

Cleveland Clinic reveals just how much sugar is in carb-laden snacks that many of us eat every day. When you read just how much sugar is in one can of soda, you’ll be shocked!

Your arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Inflammation is a risk factor for coronary artery narrowing, which makes it difficult for blood to make it to your heart.

“Having high blood sugar levels increases your risk for heart disease,” Patton says.

The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women limit consumption of added sugar to six teaspoons every day. Men should limit added sugar to nine teaspoons a day, the AHA says.

Recent research shows that people who consumed up to 20 percent of their daily calories from simple sugars increased their risk from dying of heart disease by 38 percent.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet, the AHA says. The AHA recommends limiting these drinks to 36 ounces or 450 calories a week.

A can of regular soda packs about 35 grams of added sugars. That is equal to nearly nine teaspoons of sugar.

One simple way to get rid of added sugars in your diet is to reduce or eliminate soda, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks.

Of course, we already know that carbs can lead to severe weight gain, which is what Working Mother reminds us of:

However, when there’s an excessive amount of carbs in any meal, the body doesn’t know what to do with the carb surplus… and it’s turned into body fat. 

Not only that, but Working Mother also points out that thickened arteries can become an issue. That’s pretty scary if you think about it because no one wants to have a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke! Even though she mentions that fat can clog your arteries, when fat becomes your primary food source, the body mainly burns it as opposed to storing it. 

More often than not, foods high in carbs are also high in fat. Whether it’s unhealthy or healthy fat, when taken to staggering proportions, this fat causes your arteries’ walls to thicken up. When this happens, your blood flow doesn’t flow as easily. This increases your chances of heart attack or stroke. This “artery-thickening” monster is a condition called atherosclerosis.

Now that you know what some of the risks are from eating too many carbs, as we mentioned earlier, eating too many carbs can cause excess weight gain. That’s partly because Livestrong mentions that carbs are higher in calories.

Unfortunately, carbs' delicious taste and comforting texture comes at a caloric price. Each gram of carbs contains 4 calories, and some of your favorite carb-rich foods contain dozens of grams of carbs — which can add up to hundreds of calories. A cup of mashed potatoes, for example, has 237 calories, while a cup of whole-wheat macaroni contains 212 calories — and that's before you add in calories for toppings or sauces. Even healthy sources of carbs, like wheat tortillas, can be high in calories — an 8-inch tortilla has 146 calories.

Maybe carbs are making you feel gross and unhealthy. If that’s the case, we want to help you feel better, look fantastic, and learn how to create better eating habits. Right now we're currently giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book. We desire to increase awareness about unhealthy habits and help people lose weight and get healthy! Cover the cost of shipping, and we’ll send a copy to your door FREE. Go over to this page to see if there are any copies left.

Sources: SFGate, WebMD, Cleveland Clinic: HealthEssentials, Working Mother, Healthline, NCBI: Am J Epidemiol. 2013, Harvard: The Nutrition Source, Livestrong

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