Carbohydrate Addiction

It may sound strange but there is such a thing as carbohydrate addiction...yes, some people are addicted to carbohydrates.

...Oh no...Not another addiction definition. Well...yes unfortunately it is.

It is possible to be addicted to pretty much anything...certain types of food are no exception.

Addiction is described in the oxford dictionary as...

Doing or using something habitually or compulsively.

Carbohydrates are an important category of food that people in industrialized 'modern' nations eat in abundance.This important food group is essential for your ongoing health and day to day energy requirements. Carbohydrates or 'carbs' represent one of the three main food groups or macronutrients. You'll also be familiar with the other two...protein and fat. Carbohydrates are found in the starch of commonly available foods such as...

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  • rice
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • bread
  • grains and cereals
  • legumes - chick peas, lentils, beans
  • Also, carbohydrates are found in the naturally occurring sugars of the following common foods.

  • fruit
  • Sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrot
  • fruit juice
  • honey
  • milk...but not cheese
  • Some foods contain very high levels of carbohydrate while others contain very low levels. Grain based foods, potatoes, rice, pasta and legumes tend to contain high levels of carbohydrate while many salad vegetables tend to contain much lower levels.

    The carbohydrate that is contained in protein and most fats is zero or near zero.

    What is starch?

    Starch is what is known as a complex carbohydrate. It is termed complex because many simple sugar molecules that occur naturally in the food are joined together to form a much larger molecule. Starchy foods can really pack a punch because they are absorbed very quickly into your blood stream where they become blood glucose or blood sugar. Starches can provide you with instant energy and force a rapid response from your pancreas to produce insulin. They don't taste sweet however.

    Is Sugar a Carbohydrate?

    Yes, sugar is a carbohydrate. The most simple and well known form of sugar is glucose. Glucose is also the building block of starch. Interestingly, the more simple sugar molecules that are joined together, the less sweet is the flavor from the food that contains them.

    Some people have daily, intense food cravings for foods that contain...

  • lots of starch
  • sugary snack foods such as sweets and candies
  • burgers and other junk food
  • Cravings for these types of foods is how carbohydrate addiction may present itself in some individuals.

    Most people think that snack food and junk food is not healthy for you because it has a high fat content. While the fat content can be is more the type of fat that is the problem. While some food manufacturers have produced low fat versions of their snack and junk foods, many low fat foods contain much higher levels of carbohydrate than their higher fat counterparts. Just do a comparison next time you're out shopping and you'll see what I mean.

    Many people who try to eat responsibly eat low fat this and low fat that, thinking they're doing the right thing...all the time they're adding to their daily carbohydrate intake in an unbalanced way

    An excessively high and unbalanced carbohydrate intake puts extra stress on your pancreas as it is stimulated to produce an ever higher
    insulin level in response to the blood sugar level being spiked every time you snack...or eat a main meal. This can lead to weight gain,
    insulin resistance and coronary heart disease.

    Some individuals are more susceptible than others in their desire to eat large amounts of carbohydrates every time they eat...which can develop into an addiction to carbohydrates ...where the individual simply 'has' to eat high carb foods in order to feel satisfied.

    While not everybody is a carbohydrate addict or will become one, everybody should reduce their reliance on high carbohydrates at every meal and snack time and think about a balanced approach to eating and snacking.

    A low carbohydrate diet may well benefit you if you suffer from a degree of carbohydrate addiction. Be careful however. Make sure that you have some good quality carbohydrates everyday...but not necessarily at every meal. Carbohydrates are nutritionally is the excess...the almost complete reliance on...and the source of carbohydrates that is a problem in many peoples diets

    But weight a minute...isn't fat in foods the big issue?

    A sensible consumption of 'good' fats in your diet will not make you fat or give you heart disease. Good fats are essential for your health and should form part of your daily balanced diet. That means that somewhere in each of your three main daily meals, good fats should be present...but not over represented. Remember, balanced eating includes protein, fats and carbohydrates.

    How would you define a carbohydrate addict? some of the following factors apply to you?

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol, especially high LDL, low HDL and high triglyceride levels
  • type 2 diabetes
  • coronary artery disease
  • Difficulty controlling your weight and fat gain
  • do you like to snack between meals with sweets and pastries
  • drink lots of sodas or 'fizzy' drinks
  • eats lots of pasta, rice and breads
  • is your level of daily physical activity minimal or non existent
  • are you always stressed
  • do you substance abuse to deal with your stress levels, smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs
  • This is not a definitive list, but the more factors you answered yes to, the more likely it is that you may have some degree of carbohydrate addiction.

    I recommend a very well thought out and straight forward questionnaire to determine your level of carbohydrate addiction which you will find in "the carbohydrate addicts healthy heart program" by Dr Richard Heller, Dr Rachael Heller...and Dr Frederic Vagnini.

    According to the Hellers and Vagnini...

    "Carbohydrate addiction is a physical imbalance that leads to a compelling hunger, craving or desire for high-carbohydrate foods - an escalating , recurring need or drive for starches, snack foods , junk foods or sweets"*

    If this sounds like you, then consider re-balancing your diet to include much less reliance on breads, grains, pasta, rice and at the very least cutting way back on commercial snack foods and junk food snacks. These foods just fan the fire and feed the flames of an addiction that so many people just kind of fall into without even realizing it.

    What's so bad about carbohydrate addiction?

    Consider the list above. Many people who are carbohydrate addicts struggle with many or all of the issues listed. Moderating and balancing your addiction can calm the cravings that can lead to so many of these health issues.

    Although I recommend that everybody consume a low Glycemic Index diet, this may not be sufficient to control the craving for carbohydrate foods as is the case with 'carbo' addiction.

    Low Glycemic Index and Carbohydrate Addiction

    Low GI foods can still contain a high percentage of carbohydrate...but being a low G food will mean that the carbs will absorb more slowly into your blood stream and produce a much more moderate and time delayed blood sugar and insulin level rise. This is very beneficial and a much healthier way to eat and drink...however, if you suffer from carbohydrate addiction it may be necessary for you to moderate your carbohydrate intake more aggressively to control your blood sugar and insulin levels.

    Keep in mind that carbohydrates are still a very important part of your healthy diet regardless of whether you suffer from carbohydrate addiction or not. Do not cut carbs out altogether. This is unnatural and unbalanced and can lead to health problems in its own right.

    Moderate your carbohydrate intake, make sure the carbs you do eat have a low glycemic index value and remember to balance your carbohydrate intake with lots of low carbohydrate vegetables, preferably at each meal. Don't forget to balance with protein and good fats. Optimal health is what you are after and freedom from the dependency of a carbohydrate addiction can greatly assist in helping to normalize some coronary heart disease risk factors and the process of weight gain.

    *definition quoted from The carbohydrate Addicts Healthy Heart Program by Dr's Richard F Heller, Rachael F Heller and Frederic J Vagnini.

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