With all the attention on the high fat, low carb diet, it is no wonder carbohydrates are getting pushed aside when it comes to healthy eating. Truth be told, I am a lover of carbs! I mean what is not to love….pizza, pasta, bread….comfort food at its best, right? Well, yes and no.
As with most things in the nutrition world, there are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. The good carbs are non-refined and contain fiber, natural sugars and tons of vitamins and minerals. The bad carbs are refined which means they are processed, enriched and void of any nutritional value. The standard American diet (SAD) is typically full of refined carbs which increase inflammation in the body, raise the risk of diabetes, cancer and overall weight gain. Understandably, we definitely want to eliminate refined carbs from our diet
But, what about the “good” carbs? Non-refined carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. All of these are staples in a healthy diet. And, for good reason….the benefits are amazing! For example, they provide immediate energy, they are loaded with fiber which aids digestion, elimination and satiety, they increase brain function and they add versatility and nutrition to our meals.
The 3 most common types of carbohydrates are starches, sugars and fiber. Sugar is the basic unit of a carbohydrate and is referred to as a “simple” carbohydrate. Starches and fibers are classified as “complex” carbohydrates. Our bodies utilize the simple and complex carbs in different ways.
Simple carbohydrates consist of 1 or 2 sugar molecules, therefore they are broken down and digested faster in the body. This process will quickly raise blood glucose levels. Sugar, fructose, fruit juice, soda, cereal, and baked goods are some examples of foods containing simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates contain 3 or more sugar molecules linked together to form long chains. These chains can be straight or branched. Because of this structure, our digestive enzymes have to work harder to break down the molecules so our bodies can absorb them. This process slows the absorption rate which means we will have a slower release of glucose and more sustainable energy in the body. All good things for lovers of carbs!!
So, how do we know which carbs are actually good for us? Choosing whole foods in their natural state is always the best option. Choosing complex versus simple carbohydrates is a safe bet as well. Fruits can be considered simple carbs because they contain fructose. In their natural state, they contain fiber which we know helps to slow the absorption of sugar. Essentially, they have characteristics of both simple and complex. Test the waters and see how your body reacts to the food. If you are bouncing off the walls after eating a banana, that may not be the best choice for you. Your body is converting the carbs to sugar much too quickly.
Protein, fat and carbohydrates are necessary macronutrients for a healthy body and mind. Understanding the percentage of each food group that works best for YOUR body is the way you should approach your diet. Other factors to consider are your age, physical condition and activity level. If you want help with finding an individualized nutrition plan that is right for you, give me a call today.
Take a look at the lists below for some ideas on healthy carbohydrates.
Enjoy the goodness 😉
Complex starchy carbohydrates
Grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats)
Beans and legumes