You hear a lot about low-carbohydrate diets in the news these days but the focus is almost always on weight loss.
Not all carbs are created equal (some of them are actually good for you). It is the dangers of refined carbs that you must remove (at least scale back) from your eating plan as completely as possible. Not an easy task in the age of fast food restaurants, massive pre-prepared foods in your local market, and convenience stores on every corner.
What defines a “refined” carbohydrate?
When a plant-based food is stripped during processing of all nutritional value (found in the bran and germ), it is designated as a refined carb (with only the endosperm of the original grain remaining). This lack of nutrition combined with the fact that your body views these foods (and processes them) as it does table sugar, means they have a high glycemic index.
The easiest way to spot a refined carb is to determine if a product has been made with white flour, white sugar, white rice, or high fructose corn syrup.
A shocking number of the most commonly consumed foods fall into this category and blazes a bright trail to global spikes in obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.Cheap, readily available, and convenient foods are killing us.Click To Tweet
According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, 95% of the carbs consumed by the population of the United States are refined.
Examples of Refined Carbs
- White bread, rice, or pasta
- Potato chips, pretzels, or crackers
- Soft drinks, bottled sweet teas, energy drinks, or sport drinks
- Sweetened fruit juices
- Baked goods and packaged snack cakes
- Pancake and waffle mix
- A great number of cereals and instant oatmeal
- Jams, jellies, or syrup
Foods that come in a box, are sold in bags, are “ready to eat,” or instruct you to “just heat up” are likely refined carbs. The very few exceptions are frozen fruits and vegetables (with nothing added to them), some organic frozen meals, and fresh bag salads where everything is cut up for your convenience.
This doesn’t mean that a product labeled “whole grain” is good for you. The food industry doesn’t want you to know that part. The term “whole grain” was created by the cereal industry to sell more goods to a “health conscious” market. They’ve done an incredible job so beware of supposedly healthy grain foods.
Your best choices are always fresh food, prepared by you, in your kitchen. With access to so many recipes and cooking aids (YouTube is your friend if you want to learn to cook), anyone can whip up delicious and nutritious meals that don’t break the bank.
5 Scientifically Proven Dangers of Refined Carbs
1. Metabolic Disruption
When you eat foods that have more “going on” in regards to fiber and nutrition, your body has to work harder to break them down. This process actually burns calories through a process called “thermogenesis.” By eating the right foods, can easily burn through 10% of your daily caloric intake just digesting.
However, if you eat a lot of refined carbs, your body treats them as straight sugar. They’re absorbed quickly (sugar highs) and force your pancreas to up the production of insulin to counter the blood glucose result (sugar lows). This causes major stress to your liver!
Over time, this sugar cycle has been proven to lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, an increase in triglycerides (blood fats), and visceral fat accumulation.
2. Hormonal Imbalance
Columbia University Medical Center recently released the results of their study on another danger of refined carbs in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It involves the increased risk of hormone disruption in women who are post-menopausal and consume high amounts of refined carbs.
Their analysis of more than 70,000 women from the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study found that as refined carbs are processed by the body, a hormonal response is triggered that can cause emotional distress that includes mood swings, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and even lead to a higher risk of depression.
For years, scientists researching the long-term effects of a high-sugar diet have warned that sugar is slowly rewriting brain chemistry. With more than 30% of Americans overweight and more than 30% of Americans obese…I’d say those predictions seem valid.
3. Cardiovascular Disease
Your body can’t tell the difference between a spoonful of table sugar and an oatmeal cookie. Chemically, it’s all sugar and the way it’s processed is the same. The more refined carbs you consume, the bigger the strain on your heart.
Refined carbs are pro-inflammatory and inflammation is very bad for your heart. To make it worse, other than the high sugar and chemical content found in refined carbs, there are usually high levels of unhealthy fats as well…making it the perfect storm for heart disease.
Those who eat too many of these nutrient void foods have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. These junky (sometimes masquerading as real) foods raise your triglycerides, raise your LDL “bad” cholesterol, lower your HDL “good” cholesterol, and contribute to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Refined carbs also raise the fat accumulation around your belly and vital organs – a proven risk factor in death by heart attack or stroke.
4. Food Addiction
In the United States, two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese. Obesity has now been named as a disease by the American Medical Association. Having an addiction to food isn’t a myth or an excuse.
It’s now been proven through brain imaging that refined carbs impact the reward centers of your brain in the same way that experienced by those addicted to drugs or alcohol. As you eat refined carbs, there’s a release of the hormone dopamine and your body feels rewarded. Over the course of several hours, your body quickly processes the simple carbs and your cravings and hunger begin to grow again. The result is eating more junk, more often, because refined carbs don’t satisfy (and never for long).
Junk food in particular is loaded with chemicals meant to boost the taste of foods in ways they’re not meant to be. It rewires the chemistry of your brain over time…changing what you want to eat and overriding your body’s normal requirement for foods that feed it properly. This is done on purpose (naturally) to make you want more…and buy more. The profits are incredible.
There is a worse danger of refined carbs that so many don’t know. I mentioned that these food imposters provide your body with nothing useful in the way of vitamins, minerals, and overall nutrition – which is pretty bad. What may come as a shock is that they also rob your body of vital nutrients you produce naturally or consume in other foods.
They steal away the good stuff and leave nothing in its’ place.
Over time, this can lead to damage to all of your internal organs affecting heart health, brain cognition, weight, sleep quality, energy levels, and so much more. Malnutrition isn’t something you think about when you look at people who clearly aren’t emaciated and starving.
You can’t detect malnutrition (or the true depth of the problem) by how someone looks. It’s the insides, the health of the organs, the state of the mind, that tell the true story.
Your body has specific requirements for health, longevity, and even emotional balance.Refined carbs give you nothing you need and take away what you already have.Click To Tweet
It’s time to reevaluate the foods you eat and ask yourself if regular consumption of baked goods, pasta, and junk food is going to help…or hurt you…in the end.