The Truth About Carbohydrates


Diets are big business these days and the advice about carbohydrates changes faster than the weather.  One report says carbs are bad and we need to limit the amount of carbs in our diet and another calls for a high carb but low fat diet plan.  Carbs are not necessarily bad for us.  We need carbs in our diet.  They are the main source of energy for our bodies and our brains.  Getting the right amount of carbs into your diet is essential for a well rounded healthy diet.

Carbohydrates come mainly from the plant-based food we eat.  Our bodies will either burn them for energy right away or store them as fat to burn later.  The 3 types of carbs are sugars, starches, and fiber and not all of them are equal.  We divide carbohydrates into 2 categories:  simple carbs and complex carbs.  No matter how big or complex the carb is, it is made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are known as simple sugars.  They are easy to digest and they do so quickly.  The energy burst you feel after eating something high in sugar is the carb burning.  They travel through the digestive process quickly.  Once the sugar is gone from the body, you may feel lethargic or crash.  That is what simple carbs do.  Flash the energy fast and then fizzle out.  Eating white toast for breakfast is a prime example of how this works.  The toast fills your tummy and gives you energy for the morning but by lunchtime, you are hungry.

The simple sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestines.  For people with diabetes, this can be a real problem as consumption of simple carbs can throw off their blood sugar or glucose levels.

Complex Carbs

Starchy and fiber rich foods are complex carbohydrates.  Examples of complex carbs are whole grains, legumes, rice, vegetables and fruits.  They are often high in nutrient value, full of vitamins and minerals.  The processing of complex carbohydrates through our digestive system takes much longer.  The nutrients are also absorbed at a slower rate. Thus, we feel fuller for a longer period of time.  Meaning we won’t get hungry so soon after eating.  Eating more fiber is a great way to keep a low fat diet working.

Complex carbs should supply half of the calories in your diet and are found in such a variety of foods that one shouldn’t have a hard time fulfilling the daily requirement in any low fat diet plan.  Using whole grains instead of processed grains will add a significant amount of complex carbs into your diet.  Try whole grain breads instead of white bread.  Cereals are chick full of whole grains and add a bit of fruit and you start your day off right.