Need to Know: Carbohydrates

Need to Know: Carbohydrates

by Posted on: January 22, 2016Categories: LiveWell 24/7   

The word is out: carbohydrates can contribute to weight loss and heart health. If research indicates that carbohydrates are a beneficial component of a healthy diet, why do so many people believe they should be eliminated while dieting? Here is everything you need to know about different carbohydrates and how they impact your overall health.

There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are typically found in sugary foods such as white bread, pastas, and sweeteners. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods like legumes, vegetables, and grains. When selecting carbohydrates to incorporate into your diet, look for carbohydrates with a significant amount of fiber: complex carbohydrates. Fiber cannot be digested by the body, but it promotes the digestion of other food components. Not only do foods high in fiber take longer to digest, leaving you feeling fuller longer, but they also prevent a spike in your blood sugar as the nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream at a slow, steady pace. Sources of carbohydrates that pack a great deal of fiber include vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes, and beans.

So if carbohydrates leave you feeling full and promote healthy digestion, why are they often the first food to go in fad diets today? The answer is simple: sugar. Sources of simple carbohydrates (think artificial sweeteners, refined grains such as white bread, white rice, sugary cereals, etc.) are consumed in excess by many Americans. Simple carbohydrates are typically low in fiber and provide quick energy, followed by a crash. When your blood sugar rises at such a rapid pace, your pancreas must release insulin at an equally quick pace. Overworking your pancreas in this manner can lead to diabetes, and the crash following your blood sugar spike will leave you sluggish, hungry, and more likely to overeat.

Overall, carbohydrates are a necessary component of a well-balanced, healthy diet. Simple swaps to eliminate sugary, simple carbohydrates and increase complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates include trading flour tortillas for corn tortillas, white bread for whole grain, and pretzels for carrots. For more information on the benefits of carbohydrates and your suggested carbohydrate consumption, visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Sources: PCOS, Eating WellHuffington Post, WebMD, Healthy Crush


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