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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Do Carbs Trigger Your Food Cravings?

Most of know that eating foods high in added sugar can cause our blood sugar to spike.  We then feel great and energized.  But this spike in blood sugar is followed by a drop that leads us to feel tired and not at all energized.  But then they are others who have proclaimed a calorie is a calorie and sugars, whether naturally present in foods like fruit or added like in candy are metabolize the same way.  Are they?  Is there a difference in how our bodies handle different carbs?

A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  (June 13, 2013) looked at how we handle sugary drinks, sugary foods, white bread and processed carbs.   This study looked at 12 overweight and obese men fed meals high in processed carbs (high glycemic index) or low in processed carbs (low glycemic index).   After eating the high processed carb meal, the men showed lower blood glucose levels, more hunger, and higher food cravings.  

Why the food cravings?  Other studies have shown that after eating highly processed carbs, we feel great when our blood sugar spikes.  But this spike is temporary and then our blood sugar plummets.  It is this low blood sugar that leads us to seek out more food to once again spike our blood sugar and make us feel better.  This can lead to a cycle of overeating.   

The head of the study, Dr. Ludwig, told the New York Times, that all calories are not alike.  Not all of us who eat processed carbs will get “uncontrollable food cravings” but those who are overweight and trying to lose weight should pay attention to the amount of processed carbs they eat.  

This study demonstrates that all calories are not created equal.  Our body metabolizes different foods in different ways.  What are the processed or refined carbs that can trigger food cravings?  Soda is one – it is all added sugar.   Other highly processed carbs would be white rice, white bread, candy, bagels made with white flour.  

So what would be healthier alternatives to processed carbs?  Eating more whole grains like whole grain breads, whole grain bagels, whole grain cereal, brown rice instead of white rice.  Eat a piece of fresh fruit instead of a fruit drink which is mostly added sugar.  Choose water in place of soda. 

Reading the comments on the New York Times article was interesting. One reader noted he personally found eating white flour, white sugar in the morning led to his being hungrier all day.  Another noted, a diet low in refined carbs is not a low carb diet.  The study said nothing about lowering your carbs but replacing refined carbs with whole grains and less processed carbs.  

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