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Carbs, Schmarbs, What’s a Person to DO??

Understanding carbohydrates and glycemic index can seem like a boring journey in to science and nutrition that few of us have time to take. However, a basic understanding of how our bodies process and metabolize these macronutrients can make a huge difference in our understanding and motivation of nutritional choices.

It is not enough to just “Avoid Carbs”. What are the different types of carbs and how do they affect the body?

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Simple Carbohydrates are classified as simple sugars whose chemical structure has only one or two sugars. Examples of these are processed table sugar, products with white flour, honey, milk, yogurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cake, jam, biscuits, molasses, soda and packaged cereals. Some of these foods such as fruit may still be good for you for the fiber and other nutrients they contain.

Complex Carbohydrates are those with a chemical structure made up of three or more sugars. These types of sugars are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They take longer to digest and don’t elevate blood sugar levels as quickly as simple carbs do; thereby leaving you satisfied longer and less likely to overeat.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Diets with complex carbs over simple carbs are less likely to experience blood sugar surge and crashes which contribute to cell damage. This article is filled with nutritional-speak, but I urge you to read through it and glean what you can about the subject.

Typically, complex carbs are found in whole grain breads & cereals, vegetables, and many legumes.  Nutritional values in complex carbs tend to be much higher than those in simple carbs.

What is Glycemic Index and how does it affect your health as you make certain food and nutritional choices in your lifestyle of good fitness? This article on the American Diabetes Association site does a good job of explaining the Glycemic Index and provides short lists of examples of foods that have high, medium and low GI ratings (under 55).

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In a nutshell the GI ranks carbohydrates in relationship to the immediate effect they have on blood sugar levels. Don’t assume this information is only important to those with diabetes. When carbs have a high GI (over 70 on the GI scale) and convert to sugar in your blood stream quickly, they are metabolized fast and leave you hungrier more quickly than low glycemic foods. Even for people with no issues with diabetes, this cycle plays a significant role in healthy eating and weight management.

Simply counting carbs without an understanding of “good” versus “bad” carbs can leave holes in your nutritional plan. Learn to choose low GI foods for more success in your fit lifestyle.