What's The Difference Between Simple Carbohydrates and Complex Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates have been under attack lately as the culprits of weight gain. Everyone from your favorite restaurant and grocery store to fast food chains has introduced low carbohydrate options into their products. What's so bad about carbohydrates? We'll talk about the differences between simple and complex carbohydrates and look at which foods are better than others.
Carbohydrates provide our bodies with the bulk of energy (in calories) that we need. It is recommended we consume 45 to 65% of our daily calories through carbohydrates. The other sources of energy should come from protein and fat. Carbohydrates are digested into glucose which provides the energy needed to fuel the body. Be careful though; an excess of carbohydrates will be stored as fat instead of being used as energy.
A simple carbohydrate has one or two units of sugar. A single unit of sugar is called a saccharide, like fructose. A double unit is called a disaccharide; sucrose is a disaccharide. These sugars are in many products from soda, jam and jelly, syrup, juices and more. They are what make sweets so sweet and give you that rushing sugar buzz as you digest them. Simple carbohydrates are also found in healthier products such as fruits, non starchy vegetables, dairy and honey.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are made of a string of simple sugars which take much longer to be processed by the body than simple sugars. These won't give you that sugar buzz, but instead provide energy over a much longer period of time by regulating your blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and beans. They also fill you up more, and keep you full for a longer period of time; many health conscious people choose complex carbohydrates over simple ones because they find they can eat less without feeling hungry.
Refined Versus Whole Grains
An important distinction to make here is the difference between refined and whole grains. Both are complex carbohydrates, but refined grains have very little nutritional value. Refined grains are made of refined, or white, flour. The process of refinement removes almost all of the vitamins and minerals from the grain, and leaves the nutritionally empty flour behind. While many companies then put some nutrients back into the flour, they don't put nearly enough. As much as possible, choose whole grain produces over refined grains. Search out whole wheat breads and cereals, experiment at home with different grains like barley, oats, brown or wild rice and millet. These grains have more flavor and texture to them; you may find you prefer them to white bread or rice. Carbohydrates are not as bad as they"ve been made out to be. In fact, carbohydrates can be a beneficial aspect to any diet by providing us with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, protein and antioxidants, so long as we choose the right ones. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and get most of your daily carbohydrates from whole grain products.