All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy and are rapidly digested. Unfortunately, most foods high in simple carbohydrates contain few nutrients and only provide extra calories. They also lack fiber and pass into the bloodstream rather quickly. Therefore, it is best to limit your intake of simple carbohydrates (1). Examples include: table sugar, honey, soft drinks, and candy.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules strung together like a necklace. They digest slowly, so they will keep your blood sugar more stable. They are often rich in fiber, more satisfying, and more health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are often high in vitamins and minerals (1). Examples include: starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit.
Fiber is also important when choosing healthy carbohydrates. Fiber includes parts of plants that your body can't digest or absorb. It might seem like fiber doesn't do much, but it has several important roles in maintaining health. There are two types of fiber insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be beneficial to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material, which can aid in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels (2).
When reading Nutrition Facts you should not solely base your decision off total carbohydrates. Based on your genetic makeup, your body may need anywhere from 45-60% of total calories to come from carbohydrates, but remember carbs come in many shapes and forms. Some foods have nutrition facts and some do not. When shopping in produce a good rule of thumb is ~1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables will provide you with ~15 grams of carbohydrates and ~3-5 grams of fiber. When searching for packaged foods, such as; cereal, pasta, bread, and rice, check to make sure you have at least >3 grams of fiber per serving, and limited grams of sugar. These tips should help you create a healthy pattern of eating including foods rich in carbohydrates.
Yes, some unhealthy foods are high in carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrate containing foods are unhealthy. If you decide to eliminating carbohydrates from your diet you are eliminating healthy food groups. You don’t have to say NO to all carbs; you should say YES to whole grains, plant based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The key to carbohydrates is to choose wisely.
Please consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program. The information provided in this blog is not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat any medical condition and should not replace the advice of your physician.