A few weeks ago I talked about some common weight loss myths. One of those myths was about carbs. I haven’t really gone into depth about carbs on the blog yet, and now that we’re finding ourselves stuck indoors and possibly stressed or bored, this might be the best time to drop some knowledge about carbs.
Carbs have had a bad rap for a while now, mostly because some of the most popular diets at the moment are all low-carb or no-carb. And while restricting carb intake will definitely help most people lose weight, that doesn’t mean that carbs in general are bad for you. In fact, carbohydrates are naturally found in many healthy foods. Carbs give you energy and many foods that contain carbs are also packed with beneficial nutrients.
Let’s break down carbs
Carbs are comprised of three macronutrients: FIBER / STARCH / SUGAR (this will be relevant later)
There are generally 2 types of carbs which are often grouped into SIMPLE vs. COMPLEX or REFINED vs. WHOLE. Let’s talk about what that means and how it works.
COMPLEX/WHOLE carbs: Also known as “slow carbs” because they usually take the body longer to break down since they are natural and not processed. Generally speaking, most complex carbs are healthy. Complex carbs can be found in (but not limited to) vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). Some of these complex carb foods are higher in starch than others. For example, peas, corn, and potatoes are higher in starch content than say, spinach, asparagus, or green beans, which are lower in starches. Starchy vegetables will contain more carbs than nonstarchy, but it’s good to have both, and even starchy vegetables contain valuable nutrients.
SIMPLE/REFINED carbs: This group can be divided into two different sections.
Simple/refined carbs can be found in natural foods such as fruits or sugars in dairy. Natural foods that fall in this category will still provide useful micronutrients to your body and are generally still healthy for you, especially if they include fiber.
Refined/processed foods that have been processed and thus stripped of their micronutrients and fiber such as soda, fruit juice, white bread, white rice, table sugar. So for example, the difference between a whole fruit vs. fruit juice is that fruit juice has been stripped of it the dietary fibers that whole fruits contain like pulp and skin. That missing dietary fiber is what would help your body digest the sugars in the fruit in a healthier way.
A great example to demonstrate the difference between a complex carb and a refined card would be brown rice vs. white rice. The reason why brown rice is healthier than white is because brown rice includes all parts of the grain–the bran and germ that are fibrous and nutritious. Removing the bran and germ layers are how you get white rice (through processing), resulting in the loss of the most nutritious parts of the grain.
Hopefully that was an easy to understand breakdown of carbs. A general rule of thumb when it comes to diet/nutrition is that the less processed a food is, the healthier it will be for you. For a lot of people, food and nutrition is a tricky subject, so the more you know, the more informed you will be.