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Are carbs the enemy? – Bariatric Edition

I specialize in bariatric nutrition. Most of my clients have blood sugar issues, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. My outlook on carbohydrates focuses on keeping insulin levels low, in order to allow my clients to improve their blood sugars. 

If I was specializing in teen athletes, my dietary recommendations would be different.  If I was specializing in pregnancy nutrition, I would be offering different nutritional advice.

My clientele is overweight and obese.  If you are working with me, it’s because you have had bariatric surgery or you are thinking of having bariatric surgery.  You probably have some blood sugar issues even if you haven’t been diagnosed with anything “yet”.  

Have you ever felt “hangry”?  Have you ever had a “food panic” as in, “I need to eat NOW”!  Do you have the habit of snacking or grazing?  Why are you always hungry?  Could it be your blood sugars? 

Carbohydrates have been receiving a lot of criticism in recent years, with many people believing that they are the main culprit behind weight gain, obesity, and other health problems. This has led to the rise of low-carb diets, such as the ketogenic diet, which emphasizes a very low carbohydrate intake in order to achieve a state of ketosis.

People tend to throw carbs into one category.  If that’s the case, then your Lays potato chips are the same as your butternut squash.   Blueberries are not the same as Pop Tarts.  See where it can get confusing. 

With packaged foods it’s even more complicated.  Please stop reading the “claims” on pre-packaged foods.  Flip over the package and read not only the macronutrient breakdown but read the ingredients.  The secrets lie in what your food is made of. 

While carbohydrates are certainly not without their flaws, demonizing them completely is not the answer. In fact, there are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs, and understanding the difference can help us make better choices for our health.

The first step in understanding carbohydrates is to know how they work inside our bodies.

When we eat carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose, which is then used for energy. Glucose is also stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen, which can be used for energy later on. However, when we consume too many carbohydrates, our body stores the excess as fat. This is why some people believe that carbs are the main cause of weight gain.

But not all carbohydrates are created equal. There are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs.

“Good” carbs are those that are rich in fiber and nutrients, and that digest slowly, keeping us feeling full and satisfied for longer periods of time. These include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

“Bad” carbs, on the other hand, are those that are refined and processed, and that digest quickly, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes. These include sugary drinks, candy, white bread, and other refined carbohydrates.

When it comes to choosing the right carbs, it’s important to consider your individual needs and health goals. For example, if you have diabetes, or insulin resistance, or are having trouble maintaining your blood sugar levels, you may want to focus on low-glycemic index carbohydrates, such as non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. These carbohydrates digest more slowly and have a gentler impact on blood sugar levels.

If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, it’s still important to consume carbohydrates, but choosing “good” carbs over “bad” carbs can make a big difference. For example, instead of reaching for a sugary snack, opt for a piece of high-fiber fruit or some raw vegetables with hummus. Rather than eating white pasta, choose whole-grain pasta or try spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. These swaps can help you feel more satisfied and prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Another factor to consider when it comes to carbohydrates is exercise. If you’re an athlete or exercise regularly, carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for your body. However, the type of carbohydrate you consume can impact your athletic performance. Consuming low-glycemic index carbohydrates before exercise can help provide sustained energy and prevent blood sugar crashes, while high-glycemic index carbohydrates may provide a quick burst of energy but lead to a crash later on.

It’s also important to consider other factors that can impact how carbohydrates are processed in your body, such as medications. For example, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are commonly used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, including carbohydrates. If you take PPIs or other medications that may impact your diet, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage your diet accordingly.

Demonizing all carbohydrates is not the answer. Rather, it’s important to understand the difference between “good” carbs and “bad” carbs and to choose the right carbs for your individual needs and health goals.

Consider factors such as diabetes, insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, stress levels, exercise, medication, and other health conditions when making dietary choices. By choosing the right carbs.

If you are confused about how many grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming on a daily basis, reach out to me.  I’m always going to ask for a food log to see your current intake.  I will make suggestions depending on where you are right now and where you would like to be in the future.

Healthy Hugs,

Sheri Burke

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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