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Carbohydrates are important as part of a well balanced diet, but what are good and what are bad carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy and are important in a well balanced diet. The three main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fibre. They're called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them. However, many food contain one of more types of carbohydrates and it can be tricky to distinguish between them.
Refined or Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. Refined carbohydrates include refined sugars like you find in the sugar bowl or sugars added to foods like soft drinks and cakes. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk, and milk products.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
Because refined carbohydrates are low in fibre and are digested quickly, eating them can cause major swings in blood sugar levels and contribute to overeating. This is because foods high on the Glycemic Index promote short-term fullness, lasting about one hour. On the other hand, foods that are low on the Glycemic Index promote a sustained feeling of fullness, which lasts about two to three hours.
Blood sugar levels drop about an hour or two after eating a meal high in refined/simple carbs. This promotes hunger and stimulates parts of the brain associated with reward and craving. These signals make you crave more food, and are known to cause over eating.
Instead, focus on including unrefined/complex carbohydrates that are in its natural or unprocessed state and is not striped of certain nutrients. These include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.
Remember not all carbohydrates are bad for you. Simple and complex carbohydrates are important as part of a healthy diet. Be sensible about the carbohydrates you choose...skip that dessert or high sugar drink. Choose the healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables to get the energy your body needs.