Three Eye-Opening Facts You Need to Know About Carbs
Over the years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation. Some popular diets claim that you can quickly lose weight if you get rid of carbs in your diet.
However, when you significantly reduce carbs, you deprive your body of the primary source of energy and nutrients necessary for a healthy diet.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the main types of macronutrients, the most critical energy source for your body. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose - blood sugar - and uses this sugar for energy. Extra sugar is stored in your liver and muscles for when it is needed.
Carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. They also provide an essential energy source for the brain, which cannot easily use other energy sources, such as fat or protein.
Carbohydrates can be broken down into three different categories: sugars, starches, and fiber.
Sugars are found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. There are also some foods with sugar added to them such as processed foods, desserts, and sodas.
Starches include potatoes, peas, corn, bread, pasta, and rice.
Fiber is found in vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be classified either as simple or complex. The difference between these two categories is the chemical structure, which impacts how quickly sugar is absorbed and digested.
Generally, simple carbs are digested more quickly, creating a fast rush of glucose into the bloodstream. It takes your body longer to break complex carbs, which are usually a better choice. Below are some examples of simple and complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as fruit juice, table sugar, honey, candies, soda, and cookies.
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, including buckwheat, brown rice, wheat, oats, and some vegetables, such as peas, white and sweet potatoes, and butternut and winter squash.
Complex carbohydrates can be broken down further into refined and whole-grain carbohydrates. For example, white rice and white pasta have had their fiber and nutrients removed. Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, have not. Therefore, the glucose from refined carbohydrates can get into the bloodstream faster than the glucose from whole grains.
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
The glycemic index (GI) rates carbohydrates in foods and drinks according to how quickly they raise the blood sugar level.
Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a higher GI. These high GI carbs release their glucose into the blood quickly.
Carbohydrates with low GI break down slowly and release glucose gradually into the bloodstream. Low GI foods prolong digestion due to their slow breakdown and may help with feeling full.
Along with GI values, the amount of food that you consume is equally important.
The glycemic load (GL) rates carbohydrates according to the GI and the amount of carbohydrates in the food.
GL can be calculated by multiplying the quality of carbohydrates in each food (GI) by the number of carbohydrates in a serving of that food.
Glycemic Index uses a scale of 0 to 100, with higher values given to foods that cause the most rapid blood sugar rise. GI below 55 is considered low; between 56 and 69 is deemed to be moderate; 70 or above is considered high. GL of 10 or below is considered low, while 20 or above is deemed to be high.
Should you eat carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a significant source of fuel and nutrients for your body. They should be part of a healthy diet, even when your goal is to lose weight.
However, when eating carbohydrates, choose complex carbs with lower GI over simple carbs.
Eat fruits and vegetables and skip fruit juices and sodas.
Limit refined sugars, which can be found in cakes, cookies, and candies. These foods lack nutrients and are high in calories.
Choose whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta.
Pay attention to your portion size.