They supply our bodies with energy. Carbs are compounds that are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of 1:2:1. There are different types of carbs and some forms are more beneficial to our health than others. Carbohydrates can be classified into simple and complex carbs, whole grain starches and fibers.
Simple and complex carbs differ in their structure and the speed of their digestion and absorption.
Simple sugars are the simplest forms of carbs. They are easily absorbed and can quickly supply the body with energy. They include monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are formed of one unit of sugar. They are usually referred to as sugars.
They include glucose, galactose and fructose. Disaccharides consist of 2 sugar units such as lactose (found in milk) and sucrose. Simple sugars are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk which also have other nutrients.
Eating foods to which simple sugars are added leads to a quick rise in the sugar level in the blood. Insulin is quickly released to bring the sugar level in the blood back to normal and leads to fat storage.
If our food intake is greater that the calories burned, this can result in weight gain and can increase the risk of cancer and type-2 diabetes. It is recommended to reduce the consumption of simple sugars and to use complex sugars instead (such as whole grains).
Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) consist of 3 or more sugars in a chain. They take longer to break down and digest. They include starches and fibers. They also include the refined starches that have been processed. During processing, the germ and bran are removed from these carbohydrates.
Refined starches include white bread, white pasta, white rice and white flour. Most of the nutrients have been lost during processing. Low-fiber diets with the consumption of refined starches were found to be among the leading causes of type-2 diabetes that is increasing at epidemic rates.
Whole Grains And Fibers
On the other hand, unrefined carbs (or whole grains) are packed with nutrients. They contain fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. They are better dietary options than refined carbs. They include brown bread, whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pasta. Fibers are considered complex carbohydrates.
However, they are not digested and absorbed. They absorb water and make the stools softer. Fibers increase the bulkiness of stools and make them easier to pass. This protects from constipation and hemorrhoids. Fibers can be found in oatmeal, nuts, popcorn and in many vegetables and fruits.
Fibers and whole grains stay for a longer time in your stomach and so you feel fuller. They also don’t cause the rapid rise in the blood sugar level as that caused by simple sugars. Therefore, they were found to protect from heart disease and diabetes.
It is recommended that the daily carbohydrate intake should form 45% to 65% of the total calories consumed. You can refer to the Nutrition Facts label to determine the carbohydrate content of any food product. Some Nutrition Facts label also give the amounts of the different types of carbohydrates found in the product.
It is recommended to choose whole-grains as well as high-fiber food. Eating sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables daily can give the body the needed carbs. It is also suggested to avoid foods and drinks to which sugar was added in large amounts. It is also better to avoid refined carbs.
Establishing a healthy lifestyle where we choose the best carbs is an essential step for a better health. It can take time and some practice to choose the right carbs and to know how to incorporate them in our daily diet. However, that will protect your body in the long run from serious diseases.
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