The Science of Carbs



If you’ve done any diet research in the past few years you may find yourself wondering what the real dea is about carbs. Some diets vilify them while others claim they are intricate. There is so much conflicting information about carbs in the health industry that people just don’t know what to believe. Luckily, science doesn’t lie.

To understand the truths about carbs we must first know what a carbohydrate is. Carbs are a major food source and come in many forms. They are your body’s main source of energy. However, we mostly think of carbs as bread, pasta and potatoes. The truth is, carbohydrates stretch much further than these few things. Nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, milk and dairy, juice and soda, and candies are all carbs, too. Of course with so many different things qualifying as a carb there has got to be some good carbs and some bad carbs. Good carbs are typically carbohydrates that are complex. Complex carbohydrates are more fibrous and require the body to work harder to digest. They keep us fuller longer. Good carbs are whole-grain breads, cereals, and most fruits and vegetables. Bad carbs are also known as simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are digested quickly by the body. The body can’t use all the energy created from bad carbs. That extra energy is converted into fat. Bad carbs are sweets, sugary cereal, sodas and sweet drinks, processed breads and pasta. Carbs that are higher in fiber are considered good carbs. They also rank lower on the glycemic index, which we will discuss more later on. Fiber is what makes us feel fuller, longer, for fewer calories.

Want more facts about carbohydrates? Veggies also count as carbs. However, most of them have very few carbs. There are a few vegetables, such as white potatoes, that will typically qualify as a complex carb, but react in the body as a simple carb.

Another important fact about carbs is how they affect blood sugar. Simple carbs that break down quickly flood your blood with sugar. Your body’s insulin is not able to react fast enough and instead of controlling the amount of sugar in the blood your blood sugar spikes. This causes other problems and can be very serious for people with diabetes. One way to know how a food will affect the blood sugar is by knowing its number on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a method of ranking how quickly foods break down and enter the bloodstream as glucose. Foods with a higher ranking on the glycemic index may cause an unhealthy blood sugar spike. These are typically simple carbs.

Taking in all these facts about carbs may lead you to wonder what exactly is safe to eat. Surely we have learned that complex carbs are better for us than simple carbs. They have less effect on blood sugar, keep us full longer, and generally have fewer calories. If you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight it is best to opt for complex carbs with a lower glycemic index rating and higher fiber than simple carbs that are often processed and unhealthy.

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One Comment on “The Science of Carbs”

  1. Ian MacLeod
    November 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Whole grains equals ‘wholesome’ = good for you? Is there any truth in the Wheat Belly book?

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