Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our bodies, particularly for our brain. Our bodies changes carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) and uses it for energy. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.
Also called simple sugars, simple carbs are found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and milk products. However, they are also found in refined sugar products like candy, chocolate, cakes, cookies, soft drinks, etc. It is more beneficial to obtain simple sugars from natural foods because they are naturally occurring as opposed to added in. These foods also contain vitamins, fiber and other important nutrients.
Complex carbs are also referred to as starches, and include grain products (e.g. bread, rice and pasta), starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes) and legumes (e.g. chickpeas). Unrefined grains are more beneficial because they contain vitamins and minerals that have not been removed by the refining process (like white flour and white rice have). Unrefined grains are also rich in fibre, which help keep your digestive system working well and also help you feel full when eating.
I’ve always heard people worry about how many carbohydrates this or that has, are carbs really bad for me?
We need to remember that carbs are the body’s main source of energy, therefore we NEED carbs in our diet. What matters is the TYPE of carbs we eat. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates doesn’t necessarily cause weight gain, but eating too much of the wrong carbohydrates can.
Simple carbs are broken down easily by your body and enter the bloodstream quickly to give you a short burst of energy.
Complex carbs are digested and absorbed by your body at a slower pace, and thus you get a slow and steady boost in blood sugar for sustained energy.
Let’s look at an example. Fruits contain simple sugars, but they also contain fiber, which slows their digestion. It is more beneficial to eat a whole fruit rather than have a glass of fruit juice, because it is a better type (complex) of carbohydrate for us. We should always be looking for natural sources of simple carbs, as opposed to packaged sources like chocolate and candy and choose complex carbs over simple carbs whenever possible.
All in all, carbs don’t have to be bad for us! As long as we make conscious decisions about which type of carbs we eat, we have no reason not to enjoy having carbohydrates in our diets.