Not all carbs are created equal

Natural​ fibre rich carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains are essential for excellent health.

Are carbohydrates bad for you?

Carbohydrates are frequently given a poor reputation, as they are often said to be linked to weight gain, gut symptoms and poor health. The reason for this is because the term is used broadly and is aimed at the unhealthy varieties of carbohydrates instead of dividing them into the healthy and unhealthy counterparts. Carbohydrates do not just provide an energy source; they also have a vital role to play in health and disease.

It is important to remember that there are different types of carbohydrates, and they have a variety of effects on your system. Certain types are essential for the proper functioning and health of your body. 

The broad types of carbohydrates

A healthy diet should not focus on the quantity of carbohydrate but the type consumed. There are three main broad types of carbohydrates which include;

  • starches (complex carbohydrates)
  • sugars (simple carbohydrates)
  • fibre 

Your body needs all three varieties to function. The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is how quickly they are digested and absorbed by the body. This speed of absorption depends on its chemical structure. Most carbohydrates can be broken down into glucose apart from insoluble fibre and sugar alcohols. 

Glucose is the key sugar molecule that is converted by the body to energy which supplies the essential functions and physical movement. 

Processed versus unprocessed carbohydrates

Another way to divide carbohydrates is into processed and unprocessed forms.

The most healthy sources of carbohydrates are the unrefined type which will take a time to be broken down into glucose. They include vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses and minimally processed whole grains. They provide fibre, are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are all vital for the optimal functioning of your body. 

Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates are processed, are released into glucose too quickly and are devoid of beneficial compounds such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients. These refined carbohydrates include foods such as white bread, white pasta, and refined sugary foods. They can all promote weight gain and poor health.

It can be confusing to know what to eat and what not to eat, with so many of us eating store bought processed foods, which have a multitude of misleading labels. A simple rule for deciding which carbohydrates to opt for is; if it grows in the ground or can be picked from a tree and is in its natural form as closely as possible, then that is the best choice you can make for your body and wellbeing.

So remember not all carbs are equal. Many are essential; they will not all cause you to put on weight and adversely affect your health.

 

 

Article written by Dr Aleesha Dhillon
Dr Aleesha Dhillon
Disclaimer: This article is solely for information purposes. It is not to replace a consultation with a qualified health professional. It should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. The article is based on the opinions of the author who retains copyright. You are advised to make your own health decisions based on your research and alongside a qualified health professional. Please consult a doctor if you have any health concerns.

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