Here is this weeks’ article by guest blogger and our friend, Machelle Pacion:
Carbohydrates: choosing the Right Carbs for Our Companion Birds
Carbohydrates play an important role in the health and nutrition of our companion birds, but unfortunately they are grossly misunderstood. What is a “carbohydrate”? How are carbohydrates utilized by the body? What are the right kinds of carbohydrates? What is the difference between “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates?
First of all we need to understand that carbohydrates are a form of sugar. The main function of carbohydrates is to provide additional energy to the living body. This is supportive energy in addition to the energy that is provided by “good fat”. Carbohydrates, in the form of sugars, provide “quick energy”; they do not provide long-lasting energy the body can draw from for long periods of time, like energy that is derived from stored from fat. Carbohydrates are metabolized at a faster metabolic rate than fats are metabolized. They are metabolized into sugars that get transported into the metabolic system.
Carbohydrates break down into glucose, a sugar that the body recognizes as a useable fuel source. Glucose then gets transported throughout the body by way of the metabolic system, in other words through blood and lymph. Proteins and fats must be broken down into carbohydrates before they can be used by the body for energy. This is why the diet should be higher in healthy carbohydrates than proteins or fats. But a diet balanced in the correct ratio of protein-to-fat-to-carbohydrates as well as the right kind of carbohydrates must be provided so that unnecessary or improper weight gain does not occur. If the incorrect kind of carbohydrates are consumed on a consistent and ongoing basis there will be left over glycogen that will be stored in the liver leading to fatty liver disease, as well as the fat cells in the body as adipose fat tissue which may lead to obesity and other cascading health issues, even diabetes.
It’s important to know that it’s not enough to understand the difference between “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates. We must really understand the molecular structure of carbohydrates; simple carbs are constructed of one molecule and complex carbs are constructed of two or more molecules. And we must also understand that there are good and bad carbohydrates in each category.
Since complex carbohydrates are those that contain multiple molecules they must go through a metabolic process, breaking the sugars down, in which the body recognizes the “sugar” as a friendly fuel source known as “glucose” which only contains one molecule. But this is a difficult and lengthy process for our companion birds that need that “quick” energy so that they can readily take to flight in literally minutes after consuming their food! Living creatures, especially most herbivore birds, can only properly utilize one-molecule carbohydrates, therefore any and every multi-molecule carbohydrate that enters their living body has to be broken down into this one-molecule form before the body can utilize it as an energy source, it’s just much more efficient if the source is already in a recognizable form as in the case of most simple carbohydrates.
Because simple carbohydrates are made up of only one molecule the body recognizes them as friendly and easy to metabolize, the body doesn’t have to work as hard to utilize simple carbohydrates; this doesn’t place a strain on the liver and kidneys. That is, as long as the type of simple carbohydrate consumed is a natural carbohydrate and not refined such as in sugar, pasta made with white flour, or white breads, these kinds of simple carbohydrates are unhealthy to consume and actually overtax the liver and kidneys causing a buildup of adipose fat in the fat cells by way of supplying too much sugar for the body to utilize. Simple carbohydrates enter the blood system at a quicker rate so they provide quick energy, but complex carbs enter the blood system at a slower rate, providing energy over a more even and extended period of time.
It is important to keep in mind that our companion birds are not far removed from their wild and instinctual behavior to fly freely in the skies and therefore still maintain the need to process their energy sources quickly. For this reason it is of utmost importance to understand the kind of carbohydrates their body requires as readily digestible and easily metabolized energy sources. Unfortunately many of the foodstuffs being fed to our companion birds today are not these types of energy sources.
I could go into a very long dissertation regarding how all of this works within the digestion system, but I reserve that in depth information for my up and coming book regarding companion bird nutrition. So for now I will just talk about which foods I believe to be the best to feed to keep our companion birds’ internal motors humming and which foods I believe we need to try to avoid.
The complex carbohydrates I try to stay away from, well actually I avoid at all costs, are all kinds of pastas, even whole-grain pastas because they still contain starch which weighs the digestive tract down, potatoes, rice, whether it be white, brown or any other variety, corn, wheat, whether the wheat is processed or whole-grain, soy, all legumes and basically all whole grains. These, along with the simple white/refined carbohydrates I listed above, are absolutely at the top of my list to avoid. All of them either contain high amounts of starch or gluten. Starch is a sticky, waxy substance that our companion birds cannot break down in their digestive tract because they lack the enzymes and acids to do so. And even if we cook them, at best these items break down into a gel-like substance, they do not become water-soluble. If they cannot become water –soluble then what does that say about their ability to be completely metabolized by the metabolic system? Then, some of these items contain gluten, an indigestible protein. And at least one of them, soy, contains phyto-estrogens that can actually change the hormonal balance of our birds’ delicate hormonal system.
Other complex carbohydrates I may feed on certain occasions for specific reasons, but in very limited quantities are oats, millet, and barley. While these may be high in plant protein, we have to be careful because they tend to be high in glutens or starch as well.
Vegetables also fall into the category of complex carbohydrates and I am moving away from feeding them to companion birds for this very reason plus the fact that they contain dense cellulose that is difficult for parrots to digest.
On the other hand there are some very reliable carbohydrates that I feed on a regular basis such as mango, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, persimmon, papaya, grapefruit, and lemon.
The more research I perform for these beautiful creatures of the air the more I am convinced that they are designed to consume mainly fruit and berries. They are also designed to consume a small quantity of seed, usually bitter-tasting seed they find within the berries and fruit along with tender grass shoots, tender leaves from bushes and trees. They will occasionally consume soft barks and once in awhile snack on the delicacy of an insect or two. Rarely will you find them consuming grains or vegetables and only if there is not an abundance of the aforementioned foods I listed because their primary food sources have become scarce or are completely unavailable. It is us, being the “civilized” creatures we are, who are attempting to change their eating habits by introducing grains and vegetables, and now even meat, into the daily diets of these mostly herbivorous creature’s lives. But if we would really look more closely at what they consume in the wild long before we began invading their habitat and planting crops that are not indigenous to their land, these creatures would not be consuming the very foods we are attempting to “domesticate” their internal organs to today.
If we would take a closer look at what we have forcibly evolved our companion birds’ diet into, feeding them diets high in grains, and now even vegetables and sometimes meat, we would soon come to understand why they are showing signs of physical and even emotional stress. We cannot take a “wild” animal through the process of true domestication and expect absolutely no signs of physical, mental and emotional stress to present throughout the process. By removing these creatures from their wild habitat we are changing their natural environment (living space), their creature comforts, the air they breathe, their daylight and darkness of night, all of their natural food sources, among many, many other factors. It absolutely does not make any sense to think we can change all of these factors, including what they internally ingest without inducing a negative impact on their overall mental, emotional and physical health and well-being.
In conclusion, I am of the opinion that it is not us that should expect their internal organs to adjust to what we want to feed them, but that we should adapt to feeding them what their systems are already equipped to consume and try to find viable solutions to try to find foods that are at least similar to what they would consume in the wild. While we cannot feed the exact same foods they would find in the wild, we can at least find comparable food sources that are in the same categories, mostly simple carbohydrates containing vital omega fatty acids their delicate systems recognize along with plant proteins their bodies can easily digest and metabolize. Vegetables, grains, pastas, breads and meats are not what these creatures would consume in their natural habitats. We need to be feeding fruits, berries, seed, nuts, and tender grasses, tender bush and tree leaves, soft barks and tiny amounts of insects with the life-giving-healing elements and nutrients their delicate systems crave in order to thrive.
Machelle Pacion / The BEST Bird Food / BirD-elicious! / Passion Tree House LLC © 2012 All Rights Reserved
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