The truth about carbohydrates is that, despite the attempts of many to banish them from your dinner plate, they remain an essential and healthy part of your diet, as long as you eat them in moderation and pick healthy kinds.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a class of chemicals we find in our food. There are several kinds of carbohydrates, usually divided into three classes:
Simple sugars are easily digestible and readily turned into energy by our body. Complex carbohydrates are harder to digest, and are turned into energy more slowly. Fiber cannot be digested by the body and pass through us.
The Function of Carbohydrates
Simple sugars and complex carbohydrates provide energy for our body, but they do this in different patterns. While simple sugars can give an immediate boost of energy (and potentially a subsequent crash), complex carbohydrates are slower to digest, leading to a more gradual increase in energy levels.
Although it’s good to give your body energy to use rapidly, too much of it can lead to a glycemic index spike, which causes problems and can trigger your body to store some of the energy as fat. Complex carbohydrates digest more slowly and help your body have a more steady energy flow and utilize its energy from food rather than storing it as fat.
Fiber is a vital part of carbohydrates, too. By passing through your body undigested, fiber encourages your body to move waste quickly. This reduces your body’s exposure to toxins that may accumulate in the intestines. Exposure to these toxins may contribute significantly to your cancer risk.
How Many Carbohydrates
In a balanced diet carbohydrates make up about 25% of your calories. Ideally, these should be more whole grains, which include a higher proportion of complex carbohydrates and fiber than refined grains and sugars.