Carbohydrates tend to have a bad reputation. Much of the negative talk surrounding carbs comes from dieters and unbalanced eaters. There are many different types of carbohydrates, and they are absolutely necessary for any general diet. Carbohydrates give our cells energy.
The Low-Down on Carbs… This is Going to Get a Bit Scientific but Follow Along!
Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugar units. Glucose and fructose are made up of one sugar unit, and lactose is made up of two sugar units. These three simple carbohydrates are derived from starchy foods, fruit and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates are long sugar molecules that contain fiber. These carbohydrates are considered complex because they take longer to digest helping you feel full for a longer period of time.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, and lentils.
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Now that you understand the difference between simple and complex carbs let’s move on to digestion.
When carbohydrates are ingested, they are broken down into glucose, fructose or lactose, otherwise known as sugar and then absorbed into the bloodstream. This process can be quick (think simple carbs) or slowed by fiber (think complex carbs). Then the pancreas releases insulin which allows the sugar to enter into our cells to be used for energy. If our cells don’t have energy, then our bodies can’t function properly!
Side note: In type two diabetes insulin is not functioning properly, so sugar builds up in the blood causing high blood sugar levels.
So how do carbohydrates fit into a healthy diet? By choosing complex carbohydrates and paying attention to portion size almost all carbohydrates can fit in your diet. Limiting desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages is always recommended even if you aren’t “dieting.” As a Registered Dietitian, I believe in eating whole foods and that all foods fit. Flexible eating and paying attention to portion sizes will help you achieve your nutrition and even fitness goals.
Carbohydrates to Avoid:
– White bread
– White rice
– Desserts, i.e. cakes, cookies, etc.
– Ice cream
– Sugar-sweetened beverages
– Sugary cereal or granola
Carbohydrates to Love:
-Whole wheat bread
– Whole wheat pasta
– Brown rice
– Oats and oatmeal
– Sweet potatoes
– Whole fruit
– Low sugar cereal with fiber
– Low sugar granola
– Skim or 1% milk
– Greek yogurt
Every food has an appropriate portion and serving size. A portion size of carbohydrates should be about a quarter of your plate. The other quarter should be a lean protein, and half of your plate should be vegetables. A serving size of carbohydrate depends on what food it is. Generally, a serving of carbohydrates is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrates. One meal should contain three to five servings of carbohydrates depending on your body size. For example, if a meal contains a sandwich with two slices of bread and an apple that counts as three carbohydrates.
For more information on how carbohydrates can fit into your diet contact a Registered Dietitian. I am available at Sincerely Nourished for nutrition counseling.