When talking about health and diet, one topic that is certain to arise is carbohydrates (carbs). Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are an essential nutrient contained in the foods we consume and are responsible for providing our bodies with energy. There are basically two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Unlike complex carbs, which have longer chains of sugar molecules and thus take longer to break down, simple carbs can cause glucose to rush into the bloodstream because of their shortchain sugar molecule structure. As a result, diets that restrict them have become mainstream, and foods containing them are seen as enemies to good health. But are carbohydrate-rich foods really the enemy, or are they a misunderstood nutrient with a bad rap?
Carbohydrate-rich foods can be generally categorized as either "good" (whole, unprocessed) or "bad" (refined, processed). The difference between the two is in how they are processed by the body and how nutritious they are. Refined sources of carbohydrates are often stripped of parts that contain fiber and nutrients, so they are digested quickly and are more likely to spike blood sugar levels. Diets that are high in these refined foods are associated with serious medical issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. ealthier carbohydrate sources such as oats and brown rice have longer chains of sugar molecules and are rich in fiber and other nutrients, therefore taking more time to break down and providing our bodies with longer-lasting energy.
Good carbohydrate sources such as vegetables usually contain important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients essential to good health. For the most part, choosing "whole" over "refined" carbohydrate-rich foods is the best way to ensure your nutritional needs are being met. Steering clear of processed foods such as white bread/pasta/rice, candies, and desserts can help you keep your simple carbs to a minimum. Consuming whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains is key to weeding the "bad" foods out of your nutritional garden.