Editor’s note: McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN is a dietitian and founder of Nutrition stripped away.
Over the years, I have found that many of my clients and readers of Nutrition stripped away they are cautious when eating carbohydrates. Their reservations are based on biased articles in the media that support one diet over another, the proliferation of no-carb diets, such as ketogenic. So what is a carbohydrate?
Many of you can equate carbohydrates with bread and pasta. You are correct in that thinking, but you can also find them in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and many sweet desserts. A carbohydrate is a molecule that is made up of multiple atoms of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and is known as a saccharide. You may have heard of one or a few of the four types of carbohydrates: mono, di, oligo, and polysaccharides. If you took Latin, you will recognize that mono and disaccharides are the “smallest” variations of the four types of carbohydrates. These are primarily known as sugar (think sucrose, glucose, lactose, etc.). On the other hand, polysaccharides are carbohydrates that contain fibers.
If you’ve ever wondered how this important macronutrient plays an essential role in your daily health, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ll give you the full scoop on all carbs and some ways to incorporate a healthy combination of whole food carbs into your diet.
What do carbohydrates do for our bodies?
Carbohydrates, along with fats and proteins, are macronutrients that our body uses for energy. Our brains, muscle tissue, and cells use carbohydrates in different ways, in different amounts and proportions.
Your body can produce energy from healthy fats and proteins through various processes, and you don’t technically need to consume carbohydrates to survive. However, carbohydrates are the preferred energy source that our body can use.
Complex carbohydrates play an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.
They give you sustained energy that won’t collapse in an evening crash, fuel your post-work training class, work to balance blood sugar, and provide fiber to support healthy digestion.
What foods have carbohydrates?
Start here to find whole food carbohydrate sources:
Simple carbohydrates versus complex carbohydrates
So what are refined carbohydrates? You can go a step further and think of these four types of carbohydrates as “simple” and “complex.” Simply put, monosaccharides and disaccharides are also known to be refined and found in processed foods like cookies, candy, and soda.
However, they can also be found in many fruits, coconut water, and honey. These types of carbohydrates are digested very quickly and can be It is used specifically to elicit an insulin response, which is an increase in your body’s response to the sugar you have eaten. It drives glucose (also known as sugar) into your cells (such as muscle cells) for energy or is stored for the future in fat cells. These hidden sugars are incredibly cheap to produce, making it easy for large companies to use them in their food products.
On the other hand, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are slowly digested; Think of them as high-fiber carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates are known to be “complex” and can include anything like carrots, apples, broccoli, whole wheat grains, and quinoa.
Complex carbohydrates go beyond simple sugars – they also have fiber and starch.. Since they often contain more nutrients, they are also considered to be more beneficial to health.
Moral of the carbohydrate story
Once you recognize that carbohydrates are not the enemy, you will be better equipped to achieve your health goals.
And even though I won’t say thatOne carbohydrate is “worse” than the other, most of us who strive to lead a healthy lifestyle want to prioritize complex carbohydrates and carbohydrates found in vegetables and fruits.
I’ve always found that being inspired by fresh new recipes and reading informed tips is the perfect push in the right direction to keep me inspired and motivated for healthy eating. The Guide to Master Meal Planning Offers a year of recipes, meal planning tips, and resources to prepare you for success in your goals. Let’s say you take the guesswork out of healthy eating.
This post was originally published on January 10, 2018 and has since been updated.