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Simple Carbs Sabotage Energy

5 Aug. 2013 Posted by Karen Raden

Guest Blogger: Karen Raden MS, RD, CCN

Foods such as sodas and candy are often referred to as “empty calories.” Why is this? Especially when you are cutting back on calories to lose weight, you want to make sure that every calorie counts. Eating 300 calories worth of broccoli will keep you full longer and give you lots of nutrients and fiber. On the other hand, if you eat 300 calories worth of soda and candy you will probably get hungry very quickly and will not add any extra nutrition to your meal. In order to maximize the nutrients that you are eating daily, it is best to choose the foods that are highest in nutrient density. This means that they have more nutrients per calorie.

Even if you completely avoid eating chips, candy, sodas and other “junk” foods, all calories are not created equal! Junk foods are all very high in simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are digested very quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. When this happens, your body releases insulin to absorb these sugars and bring your levels back down. Often, your body will overcompensate and there will be so much insulin released that your blood sugar levels decrease very quickly causing your energy levels to crash. It is for this reason that it is recommended that you eat most of your carbohydrates in the form of complex carbohydrates.

So what are complex carbohydrates? These are starchy carbohydrates that are found in legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables. When it comes to grains, a general rule is that lighter and softer grains create higher spikes in blood sugar than the denser, darker colored grains. Think: white bread compared to 100% whole wheat bread or white rice compared to brown rice. The fiber and protein in these whole grains slow down their absorption in the blood and do not create such a spike in blood sugar.

Some foods such as milk and fruit contain high amounts of simple sugars. However, these foods are also high in vitamins and minerals, so are good nutrient dense foods for you to eat. The way to include these and prevent your blood sugar from spiking is to always eat carbohydrates with either fat or protein. An example of this is to eat fruit with nuts or nut butter, and bread or rice with a good amount of protein is a great way to slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates in the blood.

Following these tips is an excellent way to keep your blood sugar from spiking during the day, and to keep your energy up and your stomach full in order to help you stay on track!

Karen Raden MS, RD, CCN is a private practice nutritionist in Northbrook, Illinois where she consults with individuals, families and corporations. She is a licensed dietitian and certified clinical nutritionist with her master’s degree in naturopathic nutrition from Bastyr University. Additionally, she has been trained as a chef. Karen has been educating on the importance of a whole foods based diet to help in prevention and wellness for over twenty years. Visit her website at


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