Understanding Carbohydrates and the Role they Play

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Carbohydrates often get a bad reputation. We usually associate them with weight gain, and for those of us navigating the weight management journey, “carbohydrates” can seem like a scary word because we don’t know much about them.

What are Carbohydrates?

A lot of misinformation surrounds this essential nutrient. The key word here is essential! Carbohydrates are one of the body’s main nutrients and are used for fuel and energy. When you eat sugars, starches and fibers, your body breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glucose. The glucose is then used for energy or energy storage.

Beyond the simplicity of energy storage, however, carbohydrates are needed for physical activity, brain function and the operation of organs. Carbs are essential to all of the tissues and cells in our body, and they also help us maintain intestinal health. There’s really no denying the necessity of carbs for our overall health and wellness!

Types of Carbohydrates

Much of the misunderstanding surrounding carbohydrates comes from the categorization of “good carbs” vs “bad carbs.” Here, we’ll take a closer look at what that really means. For now, it’s important to distinguish simple vs complex carbs.

Simple Carbohydrates

Also described as simple sugars, simple carbs are easily broken down and digested by your body. You can find them in fruit, vegetables and milk, as well as in most processed foods such as white bread, white pasta, white rice and cereal, candies, syrups, soft drinks and other sweet treats. However, because they are so often heavily processed, these foods are typically stripped of the key nutrients your body needs.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs, on the other hand, take a lot longer for our body to break down and digest. You can find them in whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. Most complex carbs contain fiber and other key nutrients which improve digestive health, improve satiety and promote weight regulation. A well-balanced and nutritious diet will include a majority of complex carbs as opposed to simple carbs.

Putting All the Information Together

Finding the balance between different types of carbs is important. The key takeaway we want you to remember is this: don’t be afraid of them! Carbs are essential to the body and we need them in our diet. Here are a few key places to find them:

  • Vegetables – Bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, zucchini, green beans, etc.
  • Fruits – Apples, bananas, strawberries, pears, berries, avocados and tomatoes.
  • Whole Grains – Pasta, rice, bread, tortillas, quinoa, barley, etc.
  • Dairy – Aim for low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses!

Want More Information about Carbohydrates!

We talk a lot about carbs in the Obesity Action Coalition’s (OAC) Your Weight Matters Health and Wellness Guide! To order your FREE copy today, please CLICK HERE.

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