Carbohydrates are the main staples of many individual's diet. These include pasta, rice, crackers, cereal, bread and bread products, like cakes, donuts, and bagels among others. Also included, are milk, yogurt, and ice cream.
Carbohydrates have been receiving a bad reputation in the past few years. Unfortunately, lumping all carbs into the ‘bad’ basket has caused much confusion and disinformation for those concerned about their health and nutrition.
There are carbohydrates which, when not consumed in excess, are good for us. There are others that should be consumed daily, and others that are carbs not good for your health.
Some carb sources have been highly regarded as being very helpful for the prevention of some chronic diseases.
This brings us to a commonly asked question, ‘which carbs are good and which carbs are bad?’
Complex (Good) Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are considered good for your health because they provide the body with a usable source of energy as well as fiber and other dietary nutrients.
Complex carbs are slowly broken down by the body into glucose. And by doing so, it keeps your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, therefore not experiencing hunger pangs that only lead to over eating.
Though all types of carbohydrates eventually break down into blood glucose, complex carbohydrates take longer to complete this process and offer vital nutrients the body needs along the way.
They also offer indigestible fibers that aren’t broken down and instead aid in gut health and elimination of stool.
These type of carbohydrates also reduce the prevalence of mood swings and reduce the feelings of irritability.
Complex Carbohydrates are mainly found in whole plant foods and are high in minerals and vitamins.
Examples of good carb foods include: fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans), whole grains, seeds and nuts.
Simple (Bad) Carbohydrates
As your body digests a simple carbohydrate (carb) food your blood sugar levels spike and then drop off very quickly, mimicking the effect of having skipped a meal. Having this feeling causes you to in most cases, grab another simple carb food to reduce the hunger pangs.
Simple carb foods include among others:
- Artificial syrups
- White rice, white bread, and white pasta
- Pastries and desserts
When simple carbohydrates are consumed, they offer little nutrition and are broken down rapidly causing a sharp spike in blood sugar and the hormones needed to complete carbohydrate digestion.
Fiber and Carbohydrates
Fiber is a non-digestible complex carbohydrate. Our digestive system does not contain the enzymes needed to break apart the links between sugar units.
Fiber encourages the growth of good bacteria in the lower gut. Benefits come from two different types of plant fibers that are important for good health. And these include, soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion. Sources include among others, oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fiber is beneficial for bowel regularity and creating bulky stools that are easy to pass. This type of fiber is the protective coating around plant cells. Because it’s rough and rigid, it keeps its form and sweeps out your intestines as it passes through them.
Sources of insoluble fiber include among others, whole grains, wheat bran, cabbage, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, corn kernels, and the skins of apples, cucumbers, grapes and peas.
It is important to consume both types of fiber for maximum health benefits. But what about insoluble fiber found in whole grains? Is this type of carbohydrate really god for our health. Should we be consuming it, or should we avoid eating it?
Losing Weight - Go Easy On Processed Grains
Pritikin - Longevity Center and Spa, explains that if you wish to shed pounds to first focus on fruits and vegetables.
At least nine servings per day. Ounce for ounce, fruits and vegetables have more nutrients and fewer calories than any other food.
Pritikin goes on to explain that the good-for-weight-loss whole grains are those like, brown rice, whole oats, and unhulled barley. As they have not gone through the grinding, or processing, of their kernels into flour.
The not-good-for-weight-loss grains are those, like whole-grain breads, whole-grain bagels, and whole-grain crackers and chips, in which the kernels have been ground into flour.
When this processing happens, the product is much more calorie dense.
When you have the option to choose, it is better to opt for complex carbohydrates more than simple carbohydrates because the former contains more nutrition.
Furthermore, along with your complex carbohydrates, eat plenty of protein rich foods that are also sources of needed vitamins and minerals.
Also include healthy amounts of dietary fat to help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the foods you eat.
A healthy, balanced diet can also lower your risk of many lifestyle diseases.