A healthy diet definitely includes carbohydrates. That’s one of the deficiencies of the Keto diet. A healthy diet includes all food groups.
But there are different types of carbs. Some types you should include in a healthy diet and others are not healthy. We distinguish between simple and complex carbohydrates. Be aware that some foods contain both types.
Simple carbohydrates are in foods such as table sugar and syrups.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and are a more stable source of energy than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are present in foods such as bread and pasta.
Complex carbohydrates contain longer chains of sugar molecules than simple carbohydrates. The body converts these sugar molecules into glucose, which it uses for energy. As complex carbohydrates have longer chains, they take longer to break down and provide more lasting energy in the body than simple carbohydrates.
Simple v. Complex Carbs
A healthy diet focuses on complex carbs from whole grain foods while minimizing simple carbs.
Carbohydrates provide most of the body’s energy. As a source of energy, complex carbohydrates are the better choice.
Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, are made up of shorter chains of molecules and are quicker to digest than complex carbohydrates. Eating simple carbohydrates may cause a ‘sugar rush.’ This fact means that simple carbohydrates produce a spike in blood glucose, providing the body with a short-lasting source of energy.
The initial spike in energy is responsible for the so-called “sugar rush” that people have long believed follows the consumption of certain simple carbohydrates, such as a chocolate bar or a sugary drink. However, one recent study found no evidence of a sugar spike, but did show a reduction in alertness and increase in fatigue after 30 to 60 minutes.
Complex carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels for longer and produce a more lasting elevation in energy. The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy, and complex carbohydrates do this more effectively.
Some Foods Contain Both Simple and Complex Carbs
Considering the type of food containing the carbohydrate is important, however.
Some simple carbohydrates are present in healthful foods, such as milk and whole fruits, that contain a variety of necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
But some simple carbohydrates are also present in foods with low nutritional value, such as sugary drinks.
Complex carbohydrates are also available in processed foods without much nutrition, such as refined white flour. However, many other complex carbohydrates are in more nutritious foods.
A good example of this is fiber, which is a type of complex carbohydrate and a constituent of plant-based foods. Fiber is necessary for keeping the digestive system healthy.
Some forms of simple carbohydrates are healthier than some complex carbohydrates. Therefore, it is more useful for people to consider the overall nutritional profile of each food they may want to eat instead of focusing on a single nutrient, such as the type of carbohydrate it contains.
There are many cases of foods that contain simple carbohydrates that are suitable for a healthful diet. For example, fruits and vegetables contain simple carbohydrates, but they are rich in micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and they contain some dietary fiber.
Simple carbohydrates to avoid are typically in processed foods or those with added sugar. Adding sugar to food increases its calorie content, without providing any additional nutrition.
Simple carbs to avoid are in these foods:
- sugary drinks
- table sugar
- fruit juice concentrate
- products with added sugar, such as baked goods or some cereals
Whenever it is possible, people should try to stick to eating whole fruits rather than fruit juice. Whole fruits contain more dietary fiber and are a better option.
Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are also examples of highly nutritious sources of complex carbohydrates. It is easy to leave the skins on vegetables and fruit before eating, which will increase their nutritional value. Complex carbohydrates found in whole foods are highly nutritious.
For example, whole-grain foods contain a layer of bran and germ, which provide fiber, vitamin B and E, phytochemicals, and healthful fats.
Examples of whole grains that include complex carbs include:
- brown rice
- bulgur wheat
- wild rice
Refined grains are also complex carbohydrates but do not contain the bran and germ of the grain, and they have a lower nutritional value than whole-grain foods.
These types of refined grains should be minimized:
- white flour
- degermed cornmeal
- white bread
- white rice
Click here to read entire article about simple and complex carbs.