Table of contents:

What you need to know about carbohydrates to be healthy
What you need to know about carbohydrates to be healthy

Carbohydrates alone are nutritious and healthy foods that can help control weight. Others are debris that is harmful to the body.

What you need to know about carbohydrates to be healthy
What you need to know about carbohydrates to be healthy

What are carbohydrates

It is one of three types of macronutrients, which are nutrients that nourish the body. The other two are fats and proteins.

Carbohydrates are divided into classes:

  • Sahara - individual sugar molecules or short chains of such molecules. These are glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose.
  • Starches - long chains of carbohydrate molecules that are broken down into small constituents in the digestive tract.
  • Cellulose - carbohydrates that are not digested.

The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy to the body. Most of them break down in the digestive tract to glucose, which already serves as fuel. Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal. The exception is fiber, which is much less high in calories.

What to remember: carbohydrates are nutrients that provide energy.

Why Not All Carbohydrates Are Equally Good

Figuring out how many carbohydrates you need is tricky because they are different. Most often, carbohydrates are divided into simple and complex. The former include sugars, and the latter include starches and fiber.

But this classification can be tricky because foods high in starch can be both beneficial and harmful (especially refined processed cereals).

In addition, sugars act differently on the body. The sugar that is specially added to baked goods or drinks is harmful. But natural sugars from fruits or vegetables do not have any health nightmarish effects. So the definitions of complex and simple carbohydrates need to be clarified.

  • Complex carbohydrates - carbohydrates from unprocessed foods, including fruits, beans, whole grains.
  • Simple carbohydrates - sugars and starches, which have been purified from fiber and processed.

What to remember: complex carbohydrates are found in unprocessed foods. Simple carbohydrates with less nutritional value are processed.

What is the Difference Between Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are healthier than simple ones because they have a higher nutrient density. That is, along with each calorie, they supply antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals to the body. But simple carbohydrates are just calories and nothing else.

To understand what the difference is, let's compare whole grains with refined grains. There are three parts to whole grains:

  • Embryo - the part of the grain, which contains a lot of polyunsaturated fats and other nutrients.
  • Endosperm - the inner part of the grain, which mainly consists of starch.
  • Shell - the hard outer part of the grain, which is rich in fiber and essential fatty acids.

In the embryo and shell (bran) - all the best, wholesome and nutritious. But during processing, the shell and the embryo are removed, so that only the starchy endosperm remains.

Compare how many nutrients are contained in 120 grams of whole and refined wheat grains.

Whole grain Refined grain
Calorie content, kcal 407 455
Carbohydrates, g 87 95, 4
Proteins, g 16, 4 12, 9
Fat, g 2, 2 1, 2
Fiber, g 14, 6 3, 4
Thiamine,% of the daily value 36 10
Riboflavin,% of the daily value 15 0
Niacin,% of the daily value 38 8
Vitamin B6,% DV 20 8
Folic acid,% of the daily value 13 8
Vitamin B5,% DV 12 5
Iron,% of the daily value 2 8
Magnesium,% of the daily value 41 7
Phosphorus,% of the daily value 42 13
Potassium,% of the daily value 14 4
Zinc,% of the daily value 23 6
Manganese,% of the daily value 228 43
Selenium,% of the daily value 121 61
Choline, mg 37, 4 13

Whole wheat grains are a source of essential substances that are lost during cleaning and processing.

It is the same with fruits and vegetables. Fresh ones contain sugars, but also vitamins, minerals and fiber. But in processed, cooked (especially in semi-finished products) and even squeezed vegetables, there is more sugar and less nutrients. In addition, sugar is often added to ready-made food and drinks.

What to remember: Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious. Simple carbohydrates contain more calories, but fewer nutrients.

Why are complex carbohydrates useful?

Do not cause spikes in blood sugar

Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, and because of this, blood sugar rises sharply. The surges in sugar levels cause the pancreas to release large doses of insulin, which can lead to a sharp drop in blood sugar. When there is not enough of it in our blood, we want to eat again - we reach for a new portion of something tasty.

Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber are digested more slowly. Sugar from them enters the bloodstream gradually, which means that there are no surges. Therefore, complex carbohydrates provide the body with energy evenly, helping to keep you feeling fuller longer.

Reduce the risk of chronic disease

Complex carbohydrates, when consumed regularly, reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. All because of the fiber, vitamins and other substances mentioned above: they help in prevention.

What's more, studies have shown that eating complex carbohydrates reduces the amount of "bad" cholesterol in the blood and increases the amount of "good" cholesterol.

Aids in digestion

The gut contains billions of beneficial bacteria called microbiota. It affects not only gut health but the entire body. Fiber from complex carbohydrates is a food for beneficial bacteria. The better you feed them, the better they work, such as producing nutrients like short-chain fatty acids that are important for gastrointestinal health.

Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection or injury. If the process is delayed, it provokes the development of many serious diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

Complex carbohydrates help fight inflammation, while simple sugars, on the contrary, support it.

Why simple carbohydrates are harmful

To be healthy, it is not enough to eat complex carbohydrates. We must also abandon the simple ones, because they:

  • Provoke overeating. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. This causes a constant feeling of hunger.
  • Increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that people who often eat simple carbohydrates are more likely to develop heart and vascular disease.
  • Increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Frequent consumption of simple carbohydrates can make cells resistant to insulin. This is the reason for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Lead to sugar addiction. Sugar stimulates the brain to produce dopamine. People who are addicted can get hooked on sweets.
  • Gain weight. Simple carbohydrates affect the level of hormones responsible for appetite, and in a way that increases the risk of obesity.

What is and what is not worth

The diet should contain carbohydrates, but only good ones: complex, fresh, unprocessed.

Where to find complex carbohydrates:

  • Whole grains: oats, buckwheat, barley.
  • Legumes: Peas, beans, beans, and lentils (uncanned).
  • Vegetables and fruits: any, preferably fresh or minimally processed.
  • Nuts and seeds: hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds.

Where simple carbohydrates hide:

  • Sweet drinks: juices, soda, cocktails, sweet tea and coffee.
  • Desserts and sweets.
  • White bread made from finely ground wheat flour.
  • Pasta: those made from soft wheat.

Complex carbohydrates are more nutritious than simple ones. They contain a lot of fiber and nutrients. Therefore, the more often we eat them, the healthier we become. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are delicious, but completely useless and even harmful.

Popular by topic