It seems like no matter who you talk to, there's always an opinion, for or against. And while opinions are plenty, the bottom line is, you can either count carbs, or make your carbs count.
Most people refer to things like bread, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes, cereal, etc., as carbs (carbohydrates), which they are. What a good number of people don't realize however, is that fruits and veggies are also carbs. Yep, for real. Apples, carrots and raspberries do indeed happen to be in the same category as bread, cereal and pasta. That doesn't mean to suggest that they behave the same way though. That would be like saying just because an entire family lives in one house, they all have the same way of doing things. We know that's not true. Foods can also belong to the same family and be entirely different in what each one brings to the table.
Let's start with what a carbohydrate is and why we need them. A carb is a macro nutrient that gives the body energy. Some carbs also provide us with fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Some, on the other hand, have very little, if any, nutritional value at all. Understanding that quality and nutrient density both play a role, not only in the amount of energy, but in increasing overall health as well is important. So yes, there really is such a thing as a healthy carb. Let's break it down.
There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbs digest quickly, enter the blood stream right away, and turn to sugar in short order. Anything that comes in a package, box, bag, can or wrapper is a simple carbohydrate. These foods are highly processed and have very little nutritional value. Don't let words like “fortified” or “enriched” on the label fool you into believing a particular packaged item is healthy. These simple, processed, nutrient deficient carbs are what cause blood sugar to spike and the body to store fat. And with Diabetes and obesity rates both at an all-time high and rising, they are simply not the best choice.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are the exact opposite. Choosing foods that come in their own wrapper is always the better choice. Whole, unprocessed, single ingredient foods are naturally more nutrient dense and rich in fibre. They also contain many essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that fuel the body at a cellular level. Feeding your body and fuelling your cells with these types of carbs, as opposed to simply filling your “stomach bucket” has a laundry list of benefits.
Natural fibre helps with regularity. I get it, no one likes to talk about their bathroom habits. But if you're putting food in and nothing's coming out, it won't be long before you're in a pretty s#!tty situation. Fibre also slows down digestion a bit, helping to stabilize blood sugars. Stabilizing blood sugar is key for weight loss, balancing hormones, reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, and increasing energy. The vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients nourish cells and help build and support your immune system. A properly nourished body stays satisfied longer and is less likely to make bad food choices. And who doesn't want a stronger immune system these days? Not a complex choice at all when you look at it that way.
So we've established that simple = processed, refined, nutrient deficient food and are simply not the best choice. And complex foods = fresh fruits and veggies, quinoa, oatmeal – basically single-ingredient foods – should not be a complicated choice because they are what keep our bodies fuelled and healthy.
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