Although we need protein to keep our cell structure in good working condition, we need carbohydrates for energy. Animal protein stimulates us—a condition we often mistake for energy. It’s carbohydrates that provide energy for the body to operate and for us to think and move around. Plants manufacture carbohydrates. All carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. There are three general classes of carbohydrates, all of which are important parts of our diets:
Refined white sugar is the simplest of carbohydrates. It has been processed down to the glucose-and-fructose-only stage. The body has no trouble splitting the bonds of refined sugar. Splitting bonds produces a tremendous amount of energy—your physiological engine runs wide open. Simple carbohydrates, like white sugar, rev up your internal motor by providing “quick energy”; but they don’t provide the nutrients to “feed” your body as do complex carbohydrates. Starches are complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates as grown in nature (potatoes, wheat, rice, vegetables, fruit) contain sugar that is held together with loose bonds. Unlike refined sugar, complex carbohydrates come equipped with nutrients to replenish the body and with enzymes to break apart the component parts for digestion. Enzymes can easily break these bonds. And the body can pick off as much sugar as it needs at any time. The most important difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is that your body can benefit from the more robust complex variety. They contribute to the digestive process and supply nutrients your body can store and use later. The “time release” sugar of complex carbohydrates doesn’t overtax the body and send it into overdrive the way refined or processed sugars do.
Pasta is also a complex carbohydrate. The problem with pasta is that it is a “contrived” food. It has been processed, cooked, and mangled into a “near- food.” There aren’t enough vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in processed foods such as pasta to digest them. If you eat a lot of pasta, your body will have to take the necessary enzymes and other digestive aids from other areas of the body. Eventually, the supply of helpers will run out. The more extensively food is processed; the fewer natural nutrients are available for other uses. For example, enzymes in food help to digest food in the stomach. If the enzymes are destroyed in processing, they can’t do their job in the stomach. carbohydrates that are “unavailable” to your body are those that humans can’t digest: cellulose in vegetables, fruits, and grains. But these carbohydrates are important to health, because they constitute the fiber that adds bulk to help keep the bowels in good working order. Also, excess dietary fats that could contribute to high serum cholesterol are helped on their way out of the body by the roughage of fiber. The old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” was based on the need to keep the elimination system in shape. Today, oat bran is the fiber of choice. Oat bran and other fiber-laden foods are now touted as the magic cure for keeping your arteries free of plaque. Of course, when the apple saying came about, folks were eating fewer refined food products to clog arteries. You can get a better cleansing effect from high fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains or rice than you get from so-called fiber-enriched processed foods. Refined carbohydrates lacking in fiber create havoc with your arteries and health. The more food is processed, the less fiber it contains.