How to Think About Carbs

Carbohydrates are a biological necessity — for nearly everyone.

There are three types of carbohydrates.

  • Sugars
  • Starch
  • Fiber

As we’ll see, each affects the body (and the gut) in very different ways.

Now, carbohydrates are the subject of decades of research — and marketing. Telling people which carbs to eat, and avoid, is big, big business.

What will help you the most? Cut through the data and opinions, and understand these two concepts:

  • What happens when a healthy body eats carbohydrates (they’re processed properly and provide energy)
  • What happens when a compromised gut microbiome eats carbohydrates (they’re likely to be maldigested and feed pathogens, causing inflammation)

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Carbohydrates

Understand how each type of carbohydrate affects:
  • digestion
  • sleep
  • mental focus
  • metabolic energy
1

Three Types of Carb

All carbohydrates fit into these three categories.

Sugar

Consists of:

Glucose + Fructose
(+ Galactose)
  • Fruit sugar
  • Milk sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Table sugar

Starch

Consists of:

Glucose
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal

Fiber

Consists of:

Glucose
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

2

Why Three Groups?

SUGAR

Small — only one or two sugar molecules.

Digestion / Absorption Rate:
  • Rapid (up to 30 minutes)

Most sugar sources contain both glucose and fructose.

Small sugar molecules (mono- and di-saccharides).

STARCH

Long chains of glucose.

Digestion / Absorption Rate:
  • Medium (up to a couple of hours)

Starch breaks down into sugar (glucose) — from long chains.

Long chains (polysaccharides).

FIBER

Extremely long chains of glucose.

Digestion / Absorption Rate:
  • Does not absorb into blood stream
  • Ferments for 36+ hours in gut
Fiber is mostly indigestible — it doesn’t break down into sugar. Instead, fiber slowly feeds gut flora.
Super long chains (polysaccharides).

3

Understand Sugar

Do you remember the two main types of sugar?

  • Glucose
  • Fructose

(Galactose, a third type, is only present in milk).

The 3 Types of Sugar

Glucose

(Primary sugar in grains & starch)

  • Only tastes 40-50% as sweet as fructose.
  • Metabolized almost immediately
  • Raises insulin immediately.
  • Feeds brain & muscles quickly.   
Fructose

(Fruit sugar)

  • Tastes twice as sweet as glucose. (Tastes very sweet!)
  • Is not metabolized immediately.
  • First goes to liver for conversion to glucose.
  • Does not raise insulin.
Galactose

(Sugar found in milk)

  • Tastes only kind of sweet.
  • Almost chemically identical to glucose.

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