THE FACTS ABOUT CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad wrap lately. But actually they are a necessary and important part of your child’s diet. There really is no solid evidence to support the value of low-carb diets, especially for growing children and young adults. In fact, selective restriction diets are harmful to the growing body and usually cause a rebound effect once they are discontinued. So what’s the truth about carbohydrates?

There are two major types of carbohydrates in foods: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates: These are also called simple sugars. If you have a lollipop, you’re eating simple sugars. But they also exist in more nutritious foods, such as fruit and milk. Definitely it is preferable to get your simple sugars from fruit because they contain vitamins, fiber, and important nutrients like calcium. A lollipop does not.

Complex carbohydrates: These are also called starches. Starches include grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta, and rice. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, have been processed, which removes nutrients and fiber. But unrefined grains still contain these vitamins and minerals. Unrefined grains also are rich in fiber, which helps your digestive system work well. Fiber helps you feel full, so you are less likely to overeat.

How the Body Uses Carbohydrates

When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into sugars. These sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream. As the sugar level rises in your body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where the sugar can be used as a source of energy.

When the body processes sugars quickly - as with simple sugars - you’re more likely to feel hungry again soon. When it occurs more slowly, as with a whole-grain food, you’ll be satisfied longer. That’s why complex carbohydrates provide energy over a longer period of time.

So, why are children gaining weight? CALORIES, period. That and too much sedentary activity such as TV and video games.

Here are the implications for your family:

  • 1. Don’t stop eating carbohydrates. Breads, potatoes, rice, and pasta should remain mainstays of your family’s diet. These foods can be prepared in very healthy and interesting ways and provide important nutrients for growing children and teens. Your child’s school performance and overall health depend on a healthy balanced diet.
  • 2. Only after the age of three years is it safe to limit fat intake. Until three, the brain depends on high quality fats such as avocado for growth. After three, it is important to start to watch cholesterol and fat intake, but never to the point of excluding healthy fats from the diet.
  • 3. Be reasonable about portion sizes, especially if your family eats out at restaurants. Portion sizes in America are notoriously excessive- some restaurants serve six cups of pasta in a single size order!!! Teach your children to eat until they are full, not to finish their plate. And “seconds” at home should be reserved for special circumstances such as a birthday cake.

Post-prandial reactive hyperinsulinimia: A Carbohydrate “addiction” :

• “A compelling hunger, craving, or desire for carbohydrate-rich foods;?an escalating, recurring need or drive for starches, snack foods, junk food, or sweets.”

• Many children crave foods that contain sugar substitutes, including artificially-sweetened sodas, sports drinks, candies, mints, gum and other foods and beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes.

Furthermore, over 50% of overweight children, as well as kids who may not be overweight but who suffer from learning problems or mood swings, are carbohydrate addicted. These children tend to gain weight easily but no matter what their weight level, insulin-related blood sugar swings and changes in adrenaline may cause extreme changes in mood , as well as an inability to concentrate, focus, or control impulses.
Over time, kids who are hyperinsulinemic can become insulin resistant, At this point, a child may experience symptoms of low-blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) including irritability, shakiness, tiredness, and headaches.
If your child seems particularly sensitive to sugar or carbohydrates, consult with your doctor or a pediatric nutritionist. It could make a huge difference in his or her ability to perform well in school, feel calm and focused, and behave like a happy child.

Natalie Geary