Carbohydrates are one of the most negatively published food groups. In recent years, it has also become a diet fad to completely avoid carbohydrates. There are many arguments that carbohydrates are sugars which turn into fat and therefore are bad foods.
In this article, let us try to understand the carbohydrates better before giving them a tag or label.
Avoid attaching moral value to food
Firstly, no food is bad or good. Attaching moral value to foods/ drinks is plain ridiculous in addition to being illogical and irrational. Foods are either nutritious or do not hold any nutritional value at all. The former classification helps us to have a positive mindset or outlook towards food and helps in maintaining a healthy relationship towards food as well.
Secondly, carbohydrates are not a one size fits all food groups. There are two types of carbohydrates – the simple carbohydrates and the complex carbohydrates. Both of these are broken down into glucose which is the energy unit that the body uses for all of its functions. The glucose is either used by the body for its needs or is stored as glucagon in the liver to be used later during periods of prolonged fast. We need to understand that glucose is a good source of energy for the body as most of it is utilized by the brain!
Then when do the carbohydrates harm the body?
The problem arises when there is too much blood glucose – as there needs to be a specific amount of glucose in the body – which is known as homeostasis.
Hence, simple carbohydrates are not good choices as they spike the blood glucose levels whereas the complex carbohydrates are the ones to go for as they are digested slower and increase the blood glucose levels at a steady rate.
Do we need carbohydrates in our diet?
Adults should get about 45% to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat and 10% to 35% from protein to meet the daily nutritional needs.
Which foods fall under the simple and complex carbohydrates?
Simple carbohydrates are the sugars from plain sugar, fruit juices, processed flour, and honey.
Complex carbohydrates are the sugars derived from vegetables and whole grains. They also have the added benefit of being loaded with fiber – which is a nutrient that the healthy intestinal flora feeds on and which also helps in improving digestion.
Debunking the myth
So, it is not essential to cut down the carbohydrate consumption completely as we have seen that glucose is needed for optimum functioning of the major organs and to ensure a quality of life.
The carbohydrates that need to be avoided are the simple carbohydrates whereas ensuring the consumption of the complex carbohydrates helps in nourishing the body.
The easy way to choose the right carbohydrates is to choose “natural” or unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Natural whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are loaded with nutrients and complex carbohydrates.
Foods with simple carbohydrates to avoid/keep to a minimum (Keep them aside for your cheat days)
-Refined or processed grains (Ex: White rice)
Foods with complex carbohydrates to include in the daily diet
To put it in a nutshell, not all carbohydrates are harmful to health – only the simple carbohydrates are. Knowing which foods have which type of carbohydrates helps a lot in terms of choosing nutritious food and planning to add them to the diet to ensure a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle.