Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Avoiding Diabetes- Do Carbohydrates and Sugar play a role?

Thank you to fan Cathey R. for posting a question on how to avoid diabetes and more information on carbohydrates on Living Healthy with Jillian! There are a lot of common misconceptions when it comes to diabetes and carbohydrates (two of my favorite topics), and Cathey, you are not alone in your concern! Type to diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes is becoming more and more common and increasing at an alarming rate. Why? Too much sugar? High fructose corn syrup in food? Too many carbs? All of these sound like they could be the cause, but believe it or not, none of these are, although indirectly they can all contribute. 

First of all, for the record, nobody is exempt from diabetes. It can happen to anyone, any shape, any size, any age, any gender. Diabetes does NOT discriminate. With that being said, the majority of type 2 diabetes occurs in overweight/obese individuals. Genetics, lifestyle, and luck all play a role, but right now, we are going to focus on obesity with diabetes. Diabetes generally occurs because the pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin for the amount of sugar that is in the body. Insulin is needed to move the sugar you consume to the cells in your body to break down into energy to do it's job! That's where I'm ending with my 'lecture' on diabetes. Now, for the real discussion, does eating too much sugar CAUSE diabetes? No. Well, not directly. Eating foods high in sugar, naturally mean their higher in calories, which naturally means you will likely gain weight. Once you gain this weight it gets more and more difficult for your body to produce enough insulin for the excess weight an viola! Diabetes! (That is a very brief summary as to not get too scientific, I want to keep your attention and all).

When I was little, my grandma used to threaten that I would get diabetes because I ate so much junk food and LOVEDDDDD my sweets. My mom (who has been in the medical field for 40 years now) would always say "diabetes is NOT caused by too much sugar".  Now, as someone who is in school to be a registered dietitian, I can fully grasp this and explain, rationally, logically, and scientifically to my grandmother why consuming sugar itself does not cause diabetes. Everyone needs sugar, and sugar comes from..........you guys know this, how long have you been with me? CARBOHYDRATES!! So now that you know sugar is only an indirect cause of diabetes, that means carbohydrates do not cause diabetes. Carbohydrates are a vitally essential part to human life. Without carbohydrates our bodies AND our brains cannot work, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Many carbohydrate-rich foods (excluding fruits and other low-calorie foods), are also high in calories, which is why too many carbs can cause you to gain weight, but it is indirect. You can eat more carbs if they come from healthier sources like fruits and veggies, of course. 

How many carbs should you eat? Well, everybody is different, of course! But the AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) recommends and the AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) has been set that anywhere between 45-65% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. SO whatever YOUR specific calorie needs are, which you can figure out doing some calculations, or we can estimate an average female is about 2000 calories (to keep the math easy), so that would be 900-1300 of your calories should come from carbohydrate. Well how do you figure that out? As a standard, 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories. So, dividing those numbers by 4 you will get the number of grams of carbohydrate that would be appropriate for your diet (keep in mind this is for someone who eats a 2000 calorie diet a day, every diet will vary, and some individuals, like vegetarians, will even consume up to 75% of their diet through carbs). CARBS DO NOT MAKE YOU FAT! CALORIES DO! So, for this situation, you would consume about 225-325 grams of carbohydrate a day to be within a healthy, acceptable range. 

EVERY PERSON, regardless of activity level needs a MINIMUM of 130g carbohydrate a day JUST and ONLY to promote adequate brain function, this doesn't even include the work your body does at a cellular level or for your daily energy. Now go eat some carbohydrates, guilt-free, and enjoy! <3
Although your body would prefer getting in more 'good' carbs than 'bad' carbs, so choose good carbs like whole grains, fruits and veggies, versus donuts and chocolate. I may send the wrong message if I didn't get that out there :) In general, eating a well-balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, fats, and plenty of fruits and veggies will keep you satisfied, protein and fiber keep you full, and eating 3 meals a day with small snacks in between with keep you satisfied, your metabolism revved, and your mind and body ready to go!