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When one talks about diet, another automatically thinks of losing weight. Well, let us be clear that the diet means the food and drink a person consumes daily and the mental and physical circumstances connected to eating. Nutrition involves more than simply eating a “good” diet—it is about nourishment on every level. It involves relationships with family, friends, nature (the environment), our bodies, our community, and the world.
So, let us all talk about carbohydrates. Carbs isn’t bad after all, only if we know how to choose the best with the most nutrient that we need. Carbohydrates, often referred to as just “carbs,” are your body’s primary energy source, and are a crucial part of any well-balanced diet. The three main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. They’re called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them. But since many foods contain one or more types of carbohydrates, it can still be tricky to understand what’s healthy for you and what’s not.
Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest, basic sugars, which can be an important source of energy. Some of these sugars are naturally occurring, such as those in fruits and in milk, while refined or processed sugars are often added to candies, baked goods, and soda. On nutrition labels, added sugars can go by several different names, including brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, maltose, malt syrup, trehalose, sucrose, and honey, among others. The FDA has mandated that by July 2018 all nutrition labels must clearly identify the amount of added sugars per serving in the product, directly beneath the total sugar count.
Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, contain longer chains of sugar molecules, which usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This in turn provides you with a more consistent amount of energy, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Kentucky. Complex carbohydrates are considered “good” because of the longer series of sugars that they are made of, which the body takes longer to break down. That means you will get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate — instead of peaks and valleys — to keep you going throughout the day. Foods with complex carbohydrates also typically have more vitamins, fiber, and minerals than foods containing more simple carbohydrates, as long as you’re choosing whole grains over processed ones. For example, whole grains, such as whole-wheat flour, quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn, and oats, among others, provide more nutrients than processed grains, such as white rice and breads, pasta, and baked goods made with white flour.
When trying to figure out if a source of carbohydrates is good or bad, remember this: The higher in sugar it is, and the lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the worse the food is for you.
By: Darla Gail Quinco, RND