You are probably familiar with the Atkins Diet or the Keto Diet. These are two of the most popular low-carb diet plans. They both propose that you will be a healthier person if you limit the number of carbohydrates you eat and eat predominantly healthy fats and proteins.
Because of the way your body stores carbohydrates and converts them into energy units, often as fat, low-carb diets can result in noticeable weight loss in a relatively short period of time.
What these types of diets don’t sometimes do, is differentiate between different carbohydrates. For instance, you probably understand that there are natural sweeteners in many fruits that are better for you than refined, processed table sugar which is linked to a number of significant health problems. Just as not all sugars are created equally, neither are all carbohydrates.
Think about it for a minute.
If a candy bar has the same number of carbohydrates per serving as broccoli or sweet potatoes, that doesn’t make those foods equally healthy. It doesn’t take a nutrition degree to understand that the highly processed, food-like substances in a candy bar are not nearly as good for you as what mother nature puts into natural, unprocessed foods.
This means that the low-carb protein shake or frozen food entrée you are eating may not have the “right carbs” your body craves. To use terms that everyone understands, some carbohydrates are good, some are bad, and the differentiator is their molecular construction and how your body processes them.
Eating Healthy Meals Means Choosing Complex Carbohydrates
While we just stated that there are good and bad carbohydrates, that is an oversimplification. Some carbohydrates are better for you than others. You can consume bad (simple) carbohydrates now and then and not suffer negatively in a significant way. Unfortunately, most modern diets are filled to the brim with simple carbohydrates (You’ll find out later that all simple carbohydrates are 6 different types of sugars).
Eating too many of these types of carbs is a practice linked to obesity, cancers, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other health issues you probably want to avoid.
Remember that simple carbohydrates (sugar is The King of simple carbs) should make up a minimal part of your diet for this healthy eating discussion. It would be best to replace them with filling, health-boosting, complex (good) carbohydrates.
Simple (Bad) Carbs vs. Complex (Good) Carbs
Complex carbohydrates make you feel full longer than some other macronutrients. They are also nutrient-dense, meaning that they deliver a lot of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. They make you feel full because they have a complex construction.
The longer it takes your body to process food, the longer it sends out signals that you’re full.
Simple carbohydrates are processed very rapidly in the human body because they are constructed very simply. They send nearly instant surges of glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream, providing an immediate rush of energy. In most cases, they lack any significant nutrition and can lead to weight gain because any excess is stored away in your fat cells.
Quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and peas are examples of foods that contain healthy, complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, also called simple sugars, can be found in fruit juices, candy, and baked goods. They’re in bread, some vegetable oils, soft drinks, and the refined sugar that makes its way into approximately 70% to 75% of all the processed food your favorite grocery store sells.
The typical modern-day diet leads to the consumption of 70 to 80 pounds of added sugar each year. Refined sugar, the most common simple carbohydrate in modern diets, is probably on your kitchen table or in your pantry right now.
This is an example of a bad carbohydrate that should be extremely limited. For a simple way to avoid simple carbs, eat a minimal amount of processed foods and fill your plate with more raw and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Instead of the multitude of health problems sugar and other simple carbohydrates are known to cause when eaten in excess, you can make yourself healthier simply by choosing complex carbs.
Broccoli and onions, sweet potatoes and quinoa, lentils and legumes, beans, and peas are complex carbohydrates rich in filling dietary fiber. They are components of a healthy diet and can lead to weight loss and other health benefits. They don’t cause unhealthy weight gain, which is linked to many serious health problems that simple carbs like sugar promote.
Simple Carbs Are Simple Sugars
Every carbohydrate is a molecule that contains single, double, or multiple sugar molecules. Simple carbohydrates only have one or two sugar molecules. Because of this very basic construction, simple carbohydrates are also called simple sugars. There are 6 types of simple sugars you want to avoid.
Earlier, we mentioned a few simple and complex carbohydrates. Let’s take a closer look. The 6 simple carbohydrates (sugars) you want to avoid can be found in the following foods and beverages.
- Milk and milk products
- Table sugar
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Fruit juices
- Sodas and soft drinks
- Some vegetable oils
- Baked goods
- Breakfast cereals
- White rice, white bread, white flour, pasta
Complex carbs are found in the following foods.
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Whole oats
To reduce your processed sugar intake, eat more tomatoes and onions, carrots, strawberries, and broccoli. Earlier, we mentioned brown rice, peas, sweet potatoes, and quinoa as healthy complex carbohydrate examples.
Add lentils and kidney beans, soybeans, pinto beans, and chickpeas to your diet. Whole grains with complex carbohydrates include brown rice, barley, oats, buckwheat, and corn. Snack on chia seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, and other nuts.
Eat more of the complex carbohydrates we talked about and avoid sugar. Read food labels. Avoid foods with any of the 6 simple sugars that can cause so many health problems. You’ll find yourself healthier and happier, mentally and physically.