Carbohydrates have been in the spotlight for several years now. To put it simply, they have been blamed for causing not only obesity but also a range of health conditions including diabetes or even cancer. The truth is that there are good carbohydrates and there are bad carbohydrates, just like there are good fats and bad fats. However, there are some carbs that are actually good for you. Here is an overview of carbohydrates and their characteristics.
The three main types of carbohydrates are simple, complex, and dietary fiber.
- Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugar molecules. They are easier to digest but are more prone to be stored as fat if you consume them in large amounts. Simple carbs exist in vegetables, fruits, or grains.
- Complex carbohydrates are quite rich in fiber; they are made up of many sugar molecules bonded together. It takes more time to digest them, keeping your blood sugar levels stable. They are found in whole wheat flour, beans, legumes, and oatmeal.
- Dietary fiber is a type of carb that does not get digested by the body. Fiber is found in many foods, including peas, artichokes, berries, beans and broccoli. Therefore, digestive enzymes found in the small intestine don’t break it down. Fiber is essential for proper bowel movements and helps prevent constipation.
The best carbohydrates contain a balance of all three types of carbs.
There has been a lot of discussions lately about the carbs found in vegetables and whole grains versus the refined and processed carbs that you find in many convenience foods. While both kinds of carbs should be a part of your diet, their nutritional content is very different. Refined carbohydrates are generally high in sugar and low in fiber, meaning that they do not stimulate insulin to the same extent as their whole grains counterparts, which keeps your blood sugar at a more constant level. Eating too many refined carbs can lead to weight gain by disrupting your body’s ability to naturally regulate blood sugar levels. Unhealthy carbs are generally found in junk food like cookies, cakes, pizza, or chips. These so-called “comfort foods” are usually easy to eat but offer little nutritional value, making them poor choices for your diet.