What is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are the main energy providers in the human body. They are one part of the 3 macronutrients, which our body needs, apart from fats and protein. They consist of simple sugars, complex starches, and very important- dietary fiber.
What types of carbs are there?
We can divide carbs into 3 main categories:
1. Simple Sugars (Monosaccharides and Disaccharides)
Monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, and galactose) Disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, and maltose), containing 1 or 2 sugar molecules and belong to whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. They are digested quickly and provide us with immediate energy.
2. Complex polysaccharides
Complex polysaccharides Contain many monosaccharides (3 or more sugar molecules) and contain starch and fiber. Because of that complexity, we digest them more slowly and they provide us with long-lasting energy. For example, starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and some fruits. Because of the high fiber content in this type of carbs, you have a longer feeling of satiation and can not overeat.
3. Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbs are foods, which were processed and people made them from whole foods. Fiber and mots of the nutrients were removed from them during the process and only pure starches and sugars are left. Examples of these foods are foods that do not exist in nature. Potatoe chips, candy, white rice, white bread, and all-white types of flour, and baked goods made from these flour.
Which types of carbs are good for us?
When you are eating the first two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex, they always come in the form of whole foods. Whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. They all contain a whole range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals. When you eat these types of carbs, you can’t simply overeat any food because of the fiber content of this food. It will give your gut and then your brain a signal that you are full and you will stay satiated for a long period of time. You will also be getting all the nutrients your body needs and enough energy for the whole day of activities. Studies have shown, that people eating these carbohydrates have better blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and a high-carb *containing whole plant foods diet can actually help not only manage but reverse type 2 diabetes.
Which types of carbs are bad for us?
Unlike monosaccharides and polysaccharides, refined carbs are the ones you have to avoid to get optimal health. These types of foods are often also called empty calories due to the fact that you can eat a lot of calories meaning high amounts of these foods and still feel hungry and unsatiated because of the lack of fiber and mots of the nutrients. Eating refined carbs is associated with high risks of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
I would like to point out a very important for our health knowledge, that please do not get confused when you hear everywhere that carbs are bad for us and we should reduce the number of carbs from our daily intake. This is a myth and a huge confusion, which sometimes can cause a lot of health problems. In fact, a high-carb diet, which contains up to 80% healthy carbs coming from whole plant foods is the most health-promoting diet according to numerous independent research.
On the other hand, low-carb diets, which promote high animal protein and high-fat content can cause a lot of harm to our cardiovascular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Therefore, I encourage you to eat healthy whole food carbs, which provide us energy. Propper brain, kidney, liver, and all our muscles including heart functions rely heavily on carbs. Our body breaks carbs into sugars and all the tissues in our body use them to thrive.
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