Health – Carbohydrates

What comes to your mind when you hear, read, or think about the word health? Health is a nebulous concept that has different definitions depending on your personal perspective. The tendency of some is to define health simply as the absence of disease or injury. The constitution of the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Seven Dimensions of Wellness has an even more comprehensive definition. Their definition is “Wellness is commonly viewed as having seven dimensions: mental, physical, social, financial, spiritual, environmental, and vocational. These dimensions are interdependent and influence each other.”

An article found on the Aetna Insurance website identifies the four pillars of health as nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and sleep. You can find many varying numbers and explanations of the pillars of health in many places on their website.

As Adventists, we subscribe to the Eight Laws of Health: nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest and trust in God. Without fail, nutrition is identified by almost everyone as a key pillar/law when it comes to achieving good health. What is considered good nutrition is nebulous. You can find varied recommendations for what constitutes good nutrition, depending on the book, author, or region. Because we are each created uniquely with what are different inherited strengths, tendencies, and weaknesses, what constitutes good nutrition will vary somewhat from person to person.

If we are going to experience vibrant health, not just the absence of disease or injury, there are seven broad, needful categories to be considered when it comes to good nutrition. These categories are carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate, often shortened to carbs, seems to have taken on a bad connotation because of the obesity and diabetes rampant in American society today. But are carbs inherently bad for us? Are all carbs bad or just some of them? Are they a detriment to vibrant health, and have they always been detrimental for us? Or have certain carbohydrates under some circumstances become detrimental?

Carbohydrates means “watered carbon.” They are probably the most abundant and widespread organic substance in nature. They are composed primarily of molecules containing atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and are formed by plants during the process of photosynthesis. They are an essential structural component of all organisms and are even part of the structures which contain our genetic information. They come in three main forms: simple sugars, starch, and fiber.

The importance of carbohydrates to all living things can hardly be overemphasized. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel and energy. Simple sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and enter, with the aid of insulin, into the cells of the body to provide immediate energy in the form of glucose. This energy fuels physical activities, all bodily functions that maintain life, and cellular activity that we cannot see. Extra glucose is converted to fat, or stored in the liver, muscles, and other cells for later use.

Carbohydrates work cooperatively to protect against disease, supply fuel and energy, and help with weight control. Some studies suggest that whole grains, and the fiber found in whole foods, help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.  The same fiber may also play a role in the fight against obesity, colon and rectal cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential in good digestive health.

Many studies show that by consuming the carbs contained in whole fruits, vegetables, and grains we can help control weight. Their bulk and fiber content supports weight control by helping us feel fuller on fewer calories. Too often, we have sabotaged our innate regulation of “feeling full” by consistently overeating.

Carbohydrates, as created by God, clearly are not detrimental to our health or a loving God would not have prescribed them for our diet.

The Bible tells us that, “Out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Genesis 2:9, first part. God then said, “… of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” Verse 16. This instruction came with but one exclusion, the tree of knowledge of good and evil as found in verse 17.

After Adam and Eve sinned God added the green plants of the field, “Both thorns and thistles it [the ground] shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.” Genesis 3:18

“Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods, prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing. They impart a strength, a power of endurance, and a vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet.” Counsels for the Church, 222

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet and do much to help us achieve and maintain health, while providing essential nutrients. Today, we must choose our carbohydrates wisely, because not all carbs are equally good for us, nor are they created by our Creator.

Focus on eating fiber-rich whole, fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar.

Choose whole grains over refined grains. Refined grains are processed—a process by which fiber and other important nutrients are stripped away.

Include beans, peas, and lentils in your diet. Low in fat and high in needed proteins, vitamins, and minerals, these are among the most versatile and nutritious foods.

Limit foods with added sugars and refined grains, such as sugary drinks, desserts, and candy. These are high in calories, but low in nutrition.

So choose your carbohydrates wisely. If God created them, they are good for us; if man-made, man-processed, or man-altered, use caution, think twice.

“Again and again I have been shown that God is trying to lead us back, step by step, to His original design—that man should subsist upon the natural products of the earth. … If we move from principle in these things, if we as Christian reformers educate our own taste, and bring our diet to God’s plan, then we may exert an influence upon others in this matter, which will be pleasing to God.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 119