What are carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates are one among the three prominent macro nutrients that serve as excellent energy providers, the other two being fats and proteins. Carbohydrate intake happens from different forms like sugar, starch, fibers etc. Choosing the right carbs can make you improve your overall health and maintain a fit waistline. Here’s how you pick them.
Simple Vs Complex Carbs:
Complex carbohydrates contain long chains of molecules that take longer time to break down and digest, so they are a more stable source of energy than simple carbohydrates. Refined or simple carbohydrates include sugars and refined grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. They are made up of shorter chains of molecules and are quicker to digest. This fact means that simple carbohydrates produce a spike in blood glucose, providing the body with a short-lasting source of energy and build up fat especially around your waistline. Refined carbs can leave you feeling hungry soon after a meal, often craving more sugary carbs. This can cause you to overeat, put on weight, and over time lead to type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Which one to choose?
Both types of carbohydrate are often present in many foods. Considering the type of food containing the carbohydrate is important, however. Sugar is a simple carb whereas fiber and starch are complex carbs. Depending on how much of each of these is found in a food determines its nutrient quality.
Simple carbs, when present in its natural form like milk and whole fruits are healthful and contain a variety of necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. All you need to do is to keep an eye on the refined sources of simple carbs like soda, pizza, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, sweet desserts, packaged cookies and many breakfast cereals.
Fiber, which is present in complex carbs, is essentially important for keeping the digestive system healthy and helps you feel fuller for longer. It can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Foods rich in complex carbs:
Unrefined whole grains – whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal
Veggies – spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onions, broccoli and yam.
Legumes –chickpeas,beans, green peas, lentils
Nuts – peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds
Fruits – apples, berries, citrus fruit, bananas, pears
Oats, grains, legumes, and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, yam, pumpkin are some of the foods which contain starch. As starchy vegetables are high in calories, it is important to watch your portions.
Consider these choices instead of the refined ones:
Instead of white rice, opt for brown rice and wholemeal wheat flour.
Try whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash or quinoa instead of regular pasta.
Use whole-grain or wheat bread rather than white bread.
Choose whole fruits instead of cornflakes, cakes and cookies and waffles.
Snack on sweet potato instead potato chips and french fries.
Your body gets all the sugar it needs from that naturally occurring in food — fructose in fruit or lactose in milk. By avoiding packed and processed food we can cut down sugar intake to a great extent. All the sugar added to processed food offers no nutritional value but contributes to unhealthy weight gain and fat.
A little tip:
Stay away from frozen food and unhealthy snacks such as candies, chocolates, packed bakery items, processed food and sauces. Switching from refined carbs to complex carbs doesn’t mean to restrict yourself completely by banning those foods. Abstain certain foods which are unhealthy from your regular diet. Replace those cravings with similar foods which are healthy. You can include roasted chickpeas, sandwich with natural peanut butter/veggies/sprouts, boiled eggs, boiled sweet potato with jaggery, boiled peanuts, roasted cashews, fruit custards and yogurt to your evening snacks.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Limit foods that are refined as they are low in nutritional value and high in fat. Increase the amount of complex carbohydrates as they raise blood glucose levels for longer and produce a more lasting elevation in energy.
It is more useful for people to consider the overall nutritional profile of each food they may want to eat instead of focusing on a single nutrient, such as the type of carbohydrate it contains.