Not all carbohydrates are bad

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Updated 03 June 2016

Not all carbohydrates are bad

Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, one of America’s top health and medical authors tells us all we need to know about carbohydrates.
The truth is that not all carbohydrates are the same. Some can help prevent illnesses such as obesity, heart diseases and even cancer while others like sugar and the so-called junk food can set in motion harmful reactions that trigger life-threatening diseases.
“Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs” helps us understand the difference between these two types of carbohydrates which are both organic compounds containing hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.
Carbohydrates are formed through a process called “photosynthesis” whereby the sun’s energy is captured by chlorophyll to transform the water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air into glucose. Plants need glucose to grow; the unneeded glucose is converted to starch and stored in the plant.
Starches are created when three or more glucose molecules hook up. Most plant foods such as cereals, pasta, fruits, and vegetables are starches also known as complex carbohydrates. Starches incidentally take longer to digest than sugars do.
Starches also contain fiber which does not provide energy but plays a vital role in improving the digestive system. Fiber improves elimination, flushes cancer-causing substances from the body and helps regulate cholesterol levels.
The body prefers to run on carbohydrates although fat and protein can provide energy. However fat is used only when there is a lack of carbohydrates as for protein, its main job is to build and repair tissue. Whenever there is a lack of carbohydrates and fat, the body protein will be sacrificed to give the energy causing parts of the body to deplete. Therefore, carbohydrates are the body’s best supply of energy.
Grain and cereals are considered wholesome foods because they contain protein, carbohydrates and minerals. The most popular grains are wheat, rice, rye, oats, barley, corn and sorghum. Recently, quinoa has become very popular because it is unusually high in protein. It also contains all nine amino acids, the vital protein components of food.
Carbohydrates are also present in starchy vegetables, peas, legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, sugar, honey, cakes, cookies and jams.
Carbohydrates affect our brain and our behavior because they are used to manufacture important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Carbs are the leading nutrient fuel for the brain. The brain uses glucose from the breakdown of carbohydrates to regulate everything mental, from learning to memory to mood.
Here are some effects of carbohydrates on the brain:
•Fuels the brain for mental activity
•Increases the production of important brain chemicals such as serotonin
•Produces feelings of calmness
•Induces sleep
•Suppresses the appetite.
•Scientists believe that during a learning activity glucose can trigger the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine to help retain memory. So if you are required to stay alert though the day, you should eat some carbohydrates at each meal to bring fuel to your brain.
Carbohydrates also help us modulate our mood. A diet rich in carbohydrates can help you feel relaxed and less stressed out because carbohydrates are indirectly involved in the release of serotonin known also as the “happiness neurotransmitter” because it is associated with tranquility, calm, and emotional well-being.
According to the author, one of the best mood-boosting carbs you can eat is whole-grain bread because it consists of a mixture of carbohydrates and amino acids, a combination which allows the most efficient delivery of tryptophan to the brain where it can be converted into serotonin.
“Another great mood-boosting carb is the banana. Bananas are well endowed with magnesium, a mineral depleted by stress. When you’re chronically stressed out, your body starts churning out more stress hormones, high levels of which cause magnesium to be flushed from cells. This can lead to all kinds of problems, including vulnerability to viruses and mood-sapping fatigue. Bananas are also loaded with tryptophan, the amino acid that improves serotonin metabolism” writes Greenwood-Robinson.
On the other hand, pure sugar, which releases endorphins, dubbed the feel-good chemical can lead to weight gain, a cause of depression plus it can cause hypoglycemia. Whereas good carbohydrates contain B vitamins which play a critical role in brain function, from manufacturing neurotransmitters to releasing energy in the brain cells. Thiamin, for example, is a B vitamin, nicknamed “morale vitamin” because it helps alleviate depression and can improve your ability to learn.
Regarding the carb-cancer connection, although highly refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, cakes, cookies and sweets are tied to an increased risk of breast, colon, lung and pancreatic cancer there is even stronger evidence showing that good carbs like fruits, vegetables and whole grains can protect against cancer. In fact, scientists agree that good nutrition can prevent the risk of many cancers.
Another issue concerns carbohydrates and weight control. “Nowhere have carbohydrates been more bashed as they have been in the arena of weight control. When it comes to overweight and obesity, carbs are the nutritional equivalent of persona non grata” says the author.
However, what appears to be the cause of obesity is that people eat an excess of bad carbs such as white bread, sweets, cakes, chips and processed food rich in fat, salt and sugar.
The author advocates a Good-Carb Diet which keeps your cholesterol and triglycerides under control because getting rid of bad carbs helps normalize blood fat.
Eating good carbs increases your daily intake of fiber. Fiber has some great benefits when it comes to weight control. Fiber triggers satiety and stimulates the release of an appetite suppressing hormone. Fiber also controls your fat and sugar intake and helps regulate blood sugar.
Finally it is best to restrict starchy carbohydrates after your mid-day meal. Carbohydrates should be plentiful at breakfast, mid-morning snack time, and lunch meals to provide adequate fuel for the day’s activities. But you should limit carbs at night, when they are less likely to be fully burned from exercise or activity.
“Natural, unprocessed good carbs, grains, vegetables, and fruits, are healthy for every part of the body. What is good for your brain is good for your heart and for practically every other organ and body system. Good carbs simply mean good health” concludes the author.
’Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs’ is a useful book. It helps understand the difference between these two kinds of carbohydrates. It also shows how good carbs are crucial role to our physical and mental health. And you will learn the best sources of good carbohydrates and how to lose weight without even cutting carbs!

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A wellness interlude

The relaxation room at the Pearl Spa. (All images supplied)
Updated 20 September 2018

A wellness interlude

  • The Pearl Spa offers holistic wellness experiences
  • It is themed around the region's pearling heritage

DUBAI: Few things can give you that instant holiday feeling as much as a spa treat. Of course, it helps if it’s within the tranquil beachside setting of the luxe-Arabesque Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Walking into its sun-drenched lobby bedecked with fresh floral arrangements puts you into relax mode, with the dial being cranked up higher as soon as you enter Pearl Spa.

Themed around the region’s pearling heritage, the spa doesn’t just nod to the gem in its name but also references it in the opulent yet understated design with mother-of-pearl inlays and pearly finishes throughout.

And if the spa’s decor is impressive, the couples’ suite will wow even the most jaded. A proper hotel-suite sized affair, it has a generous living area with sofas, an outdoor courtyard with a bubbling fountain providing the perfect backdrop, and separate treatment rooms and bathrooms. Once holed up in here, anyone could be forgiven for not trying out the rest of the wet facilities, which include a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and a sensory shower.

However, a spa is only as good as its therapists, and in this case they are among the best in town. The signature massage, a 90-minute therapy, combines a variety of strokes and pressures, together with regionally inspired oud, rose and frankincense oil to make for a truly indulgent experience.

The treatment protocol is merely prescriptive, however, as the therapists really take it upon themselves to fix whatever is required — knots were teased out, muscle aches I didn’t know existed eased away, and tensions soothed as the masseuse kneaded, pummeled and stretched, hopping on to the table to maximize the impact of the massage.

I waddled out in an utterly relaxed state, making a mental note that this is one of the best massages anyone can have in Dubai, bar none (and I have tried most).

At the end, herbal teas are served in the private lounge as you are left to ease yourself back into the real world at your own relaxed pace. The quintessentially Four Seasons touch of thoughtfulness punctuates the whole experience, whether it’s in the beauty gear provided in the ladies’ dressing room, or the nuts and dried fruit snacks accompanying the post-treatment snack.

When you combine a superlative treatment such as this with a spa lunch, then it can turn a dusty urban afternoon into a complete retreat like little else can.

Offering a holistic wellness experience, their new spa menu features light and nutritious yet delicious gourmet dishes: Marinated tuna carpaccio with seaweed and cucumber yuzu dressing and sunflower seeds; avocado and Boston lettuce salad with shaved Parmesan and poached apple and perfectly cooked Loch-Fynn salmon with sautéed kale and asparagus; and fresh, mousse-like low-fat mango yoghurt with acai sorbet and granola crumbs. The pre-treatment lunch is usually served in the Pearl Courtyard, but during the hotter months can be taken indoors at the lobby side Shai salon.