The Complexities of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate is a major category of food, including all the fruits, vegetables, grains and starches. If you choose-as I hope you will-to do Atkins for a lifetime, you must bring some exacting standards to the process of deciding what carbohydrate foods you intend to eat. And make no mistake, I'm determined to teach you how to fashion a great way to eat-long term-not simply a weight loss regimen.

When doing Atkins, you will control the number of grams of carbohydrates you eat and will focus on certain food groups rather than others. One reason you will need to do this is because not all carbohydrate found in food is created equal. Most carbohydrate is digested by your body and turned into glucose-and most nutritionists refer to this as digestible carbohydrate. However, some carbohydrate can be digested by your body but not turned into glucose (glycerin is one example), and some carbohydrate is not digestible at all, such as fiber (see "Fiber: A Form of Carbohydrate," opposite) and is therefore eventually excreted by your body. These last two types of carbohydrate don't have an impact on your blood-sugar levels. Understanding the different behavior of carbohydrate in your body can help you make smart food choices.

But you cannot necessarily rely on food labels. Recently (in 2001) the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected a request by numerous health food manufacturers to allow non-digestible and non-metabolized carbohydrates to be listed separately on packaging, so that diabetics and other people with glucose/insulin disorders would be able to have the information upon which to make health-promoting decisions. I can't tell you I agree with this decision, and I certainly don't agree with the apparent notion that all carbohydrates are the same and affect your body the same way.

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