by Jordan Rubin
Carbohydrates are a chief source of energy for all body functions, cellular processes, thinking, breathing and muscular exertion. In fact, the brain is an energy-demanding organ and has an absolute dependence on healthy sources of glucose as fuel. While the brain makes up only two percent of the body’s weight, it consumes more than 20 percent of the body’s energy. All green plants, for example, produce carbohydrates—starch and sugar—in their leaves through the action of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. Some of the best carbohydrates to consume are organic vegetables (especially green, leafy ones) and fruits, whole sprouted grains, raw, unfiltered honey, legumes, etc. Many of the health benefits of these carbohydrates come from the rich supply of phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals, or beneficial chemicals made by plants, can support healthy aging, cellular health and cardiovascular health. They act as antioxidants that reduce cell damage, support the immune system and fight bacteria and viruses. They can support healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels and hormonal balance. Every vegetable and fruit has a unique profile of phytonutrients exerting beneficial effects on our bodies. The pigments of fruits, vegetables and some beans and grains contain a group of phytochemicals called polyphenols. The red and purple pigments found in such foods as grapes, cherries, berries, plums and red cabbage act to support heart, blood vessel and lung health. The carotenoids in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and in dark green leafy vegetables strongly support cellular health.
Monosaccharides and Disaccharides
There are two types of carbohydrates that we consume and if eaten in their natural state, can prove to be very beneficial to our health. They are monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are comprised of one to two easily digestible sugars that, when ingested, pass into your bloodstream almost immediately. Glucose, the primary sugar in our blood, and fructose (fruit sugar) are monosaccharides; lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar) are disaccharides. When you eat naturally-occurring monosaccharides or disaccharides you get fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. Fresh whole fruit and honey are good examples.
Sweetener of Choice: Raw, Unfiltered Honey
Mankind’s oldest sweetener—honey—comes from the nectar of flowers and nature’s most efficient factory, the beehive. In raw, unfiltered honey, the enzymes are preserved and its natural processing involves lactic-acid fermentation. Enzymes, or specialized proteins, are crucial for essential body processes like digestion, breathing, talking and moving.
Unlike processed, enzyme-deficient foods and other sweeteners, raw honey is predigested and easy for the body to break down, aiding in better digestion. Additionally, raw honey is a first-rate source of antioxidants which, of course, preserve and protect the body from free radical damage, those unstable molecules known to attack the body’s immune system’s cells and other cells.
Although fiber is not digestible, it has important functions in the body. Fiber protects the health of the intestinal tract by increasing stool bulk and decreasing transit time, which minimizes the contact of unhealthy elements within the intestinal walls. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Water-soluble fibers are found in grains such as oats, seeds, legumes and pectins, which make up part of the edible portions of seeds, vegetables and fruits. Insoluble fibers are cellulose and lignins, found in the bran of wheat and other whole grains as well as heicellulose, found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Refined carbohydrates: A Caution
In nature, sugars and carbohydrates (the energy providers) are linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fiber—the bodybuilding and digestion-regulating components of the diet. In whole form sugars and starches support health, but refined carbohydrates are not optimal for health because they are devoid of bodybuilding elements. The “refining” process strips the foods of necessary nutrients and depletes its reserves. Digestion of refined carbohydrates calls on the body’s own store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes for proper metabolization.
For the healthiest carbohydrates, eat organically grown vegetables, fruits, honey, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes (soaked first for optimal benefits) and sprouted grains.