Complex Carbs vs. Simple Carbs | HealthiNation





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Published on Feb 16, 2012

Carbohydrates, or "carbs", are an essential part of any diet. We need them to live and they are in almost everything we eat. They can be found in all fruits, all vegetables, all grains, and some dairy products. Most processed foods we eat are loaded with carbs.

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Carbs provide our bodies with energy. They are a great source of "fuel". When we take in too many carbs then we have "fuel" to spare, and our body stores that excess as fat.

Let's break that down: Carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules. Simple carbohydrates like glucose, fructose (fruit sugar) and sucrose (table sugar) need almost no digesting. They can enter the bloodstream immediately and therefore are a fast source of energy. Complex carbohydrates contain starches that are composed of longer chains of sugars. They provide the body with a longer-lasting energy source, as well as fiber and other nutrients. Our bodies break down complex carbs into what's called glucose. Glucose is the primary "fuel" that our cells burn to give us energy.

When we refer to "good" carbs, we mean carbs (usually complex carbs) that are as close to their natural state as possible, or unrefined. Good carbs are "good" because in addition to the carbs, they contain nutrients we need like vitamins, minerals, and a range of phytonutrients.

Bad carbs are considered "bad" because of one of two things; they are simple sugars (like the ones in sodas and candy), or they're complex carbs that have been refined (or stripped of all that "good" stuff during processing). These bad carbs are found in foods like cakes, cookies, crackers, white flour and white bread.

Another example of a bad carb is white rice. It begins as a whole grain of brown rice whose outer layers contain healthful fiber, vitamins and minerals. However, during refinement this nutritious outer layer is removed and the brown rice is transformed into white rice. What's left of the grain is just a starchy, white center and our body sees it as a little ball of sugar. That sugar is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and rapidly raises blood sugar levels.

We need sugar, but only in combination with all those other good things.

And don't be fooled by labels that say "enriched." The enrichment process adds back only five nutrients to refined flour. But all the other nutrients from the whole grain are still lost.

So eat good carbs. You can satisfy your sweet tooth by eating fruit. Choose flour, breads, cereals and pasta made of whole grains. Look for the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat " on food labels; it should be the first ingredient listed. Good carbs tend to be high in fiber and will help keep you fuller longer. They may reduce your risk for chronic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes) and even certain cancers.

For a healthy, balanced diet, eat carbs that are "whole" in nature. Our bodies do best with the whole food as nature intended it. After all, Mother Nature is pretty smart.

Comments • 158

Man I'm glad I got educated on this because now I'm definitely going to change my eating habits.
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Rob Mead
This is a great video for classroom use. (Middle School health class.) It is short, informative, and very high energy. Too bad the embedding is disabled. It would be nice if HealthiNation made their message more accessible.
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Steve Bates
People claiming that carbohydrates are not essential in the diet are wrong. Because there are severe consequences to long-term ketosis such as hypothyroidism, muscle mass loss, bone mineral loss, and immunodeficiency. Look up happens to kids placed on the ketogenic diet for epilepsy. Even the Eskimos did not a zero carbohydrate diet, in fact, they got about 15-20% of their calories from carbs from the glycogen-rich meats and occasional plant foods they ate. http://freetheanimal.com/2014/03/disrupting-carbs-prebiotics.html
Filip Andriessen
i think this women eats to much white rice cause shes fat lol
Wait...carbohydrates are essential? I thought protein and fats are essential for bodily function?
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Adam Kučera
5 seconds into the video biggest lie ive ever heard xD
Ariana Hamdard
what about wholemeal? please tell me!! you know wholemeal bread?
Jayar Fernandez
Does she even lift? lol
X Born
Thanks ! :)
Janine Johnson
We do not need carbohydrates to live. There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. There is mounting evidence that limiting carbohydrates is a GOOD thing - the brain actually prefers running on ketones, and your body can manufacture glucose if needed. This is old thinking, and is part of the reason we are seeing the huge uptick in obesity and diabetes.
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