To eat or not to eat carbohydrates? The information out there can be so confusing and it’s no wonder people are unsure of whether carbohydrates are indeed good or bad.
Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet as they provide energy and are found in foods with other important nutrients, but it’s the type of carbohydrate that matters.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly in the body and glucose is released into the bloodstream at a fast rate, leading to high blood glucose. This causes insulin to spike. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose and too much insulin can lead to weight gain and Type 2 Diabetes.
These simple carbohydrates are often very energy dense, with limited nutrients.
Examples include white bread, table sugar, soft drink, donuts and pastries.
These simple carbohydrates are also not very filling and therefore cause consumers to eat more as they are not satisfied, leading to weight gain.
Another consequence of simple carbohydrates is feelings of fatigue not long after consumption as they only provide short lasting energy.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand take longer to digest as the molecules are larger in size and often contain fibre. This means glucose is released into the blood at a slower rate, causing insulin not to spike but rather stay consistent. The slow digestion also helps you to feel fuller for longer and gives you a consistent source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are also more nutrient dense as they contain many vitamins and minerals which provides a range of benefits for your body.
Examples include sweet potato, multigrain bread and legumes/beans.
So instead of thinking carbohydrates are bad, you should ask yourself when you consume a carbohydrate, is this a simple or a complex carbohydrate?
Try and consume complex carbohydrates for the majority of your food intake and leave the simple carbohydrates for special occasions.
Emma Nassif is a Nutritionist at OnePointHealth in Penrith.