What are carbohydrates? The word carbohydrate comes from a combination of naturally occurring compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrate means you add hydrogen and oxygen (hydrate) to carbon atoms (carbo). Combine the above three elements in various forms and you have carbohydrates.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrate is also a name for a type of food! Examples of carbohydrates (not speaking atomically) are fruits, vegetables and grains.

We can break this down further: from carbohydrates, you get sugar and starch.

Sugar comes from all sorts of plants. An example of a carbohydrate that yields sugar is sugar cane. Easy enough! Table sugar, also called sucrose, comes from sugar cane usually. Sugar comes from other sources.

This table sugar, or sucrose, breaks down further in your digestive tract (via a chemical reaction) into glucose and fructose. Strange sounding names, but I’ll attempt to define each:

Glucose is the name of the sugar that flows in your bloodstream and is a good source for energy. One eats a carbohydrate, it goes down into the intestines and, while traveling through the small intestine, this primary sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream and your body is sent energy for you to burn up in whatever it is that you are doing.

Fructose is the primary sugar in fruit and high fructose corn syrup. Apparently fructose is sweeter than glucose and so is more readily used in soft drinks, though glucose is the main energy sugar the body uses to do things like think, run, play the piano and stretch out. (Chemical terms ending in -ose mean sugar, like lactose. That means the sugar in milk.)

A starch is a carbohydrate that you get from rice, potatoes and bread. Starches break down in the intestines and you get glucose again.

What is a refined carbohydrate?

A refined carbohydrate is a fruit, vegetable or grain that has been processed away from its natural state, such as bleached white wheat flour, peaches immersed in refined sugar, sodium-packed tomato sauce — the list of processed foods is very long!

A "refined" carbohydrate can also mean that many of the vitamins and minerals have been processed out of the food. So when you eat something and you’ve just filled your stomach with food and you are still hungry, chances are that that’s true! You’re still hungry! That’s because you just ate some food that has had its nutritional value devalued. Just like the dollar!

Not only do you have to eat more so that your body obtains the nutrition that it needs, but all that extra "food" you consumed then converts to fat in your body. You can be overweight and be starving at the same time. That’s what I call oxymoronic — meaning, a contradiction of terms.

Refined sugar and processed white flour drain your body of vitamins and minerals instead of putting vitamins and minerals into your body.

Refined sugar is also used as a preservative for food. It keeps the fungus from growing easily in your food. It makes your corn flakes or wheat flakes sweet and last long on the shelf.

Refined sugar and processed flour also give you that "pep" feeling, meaning you’re up or feel energetic for a while and then down you come.

Now, to counteract this sudden jolt of sugar in the system, your body puts out more insulin, which evens out this "too much energy in the blood system" problem. Sounds okay, but there’s bad news: when the insulin your body produces no longer works, you are forced to receive insulin shots and you get labeled a diabetic.

If you eat too much refined sugar or white flour, you could end up with serious malnutrition. That could lead to catastrophic illnesses — illnesses that kill your bank account and then kill you. Starting your children on refined sugar and white flour … well, you get the picture.

Ideal ways to eat carbohydrates

Carbohydrates from vegetables hit the system with sugar more slowly than many fruits and grains.

Ideally, you would want to eat carbohydrates with meats and saturated fats. These slow the sugar from the carbohydrates from hitting the body so fast, and thus forcing it to bring out the equalizer known as insulin.

And if the carbohydrates you are eating are not processed, they will give you vitamins and minerals that your body can use — and so you’ll obtain the necessary nutrition and will tend not toward getting ill due to poor nutrition. You might even find that you don’t have to eat so much. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up losing weight!

And watch out for the preservatives and pesticides that the experts say won’t hurt you.

Don’t buy food that’s been grown in soil that has been killed by pesticides, etc. Organic food is best!

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