How healthy is carbohydrate to your body ? Is it that harmful to cut it down entirely from your daily meal?
The answer is simply, NO! It is all about choosing the right Carbohydrate for your body that will ultimately keep you healthy and fit, not entirely to cut it down .
While talking about Carbohydrate, one might get surprised to know that there are two types of carbohydrate according to their chemical structure. These are ; Simple Carb & Complex Carb. And all these carbs need to be broken down into glucose which is the simplest form of carbohydrate. We might have been picturising of white rice, refined sugar, white bread, a bowl of pasta as carbohydrates, which we intake with guilty pleasure even knowing that these have some damaging effects to our health.
But have we ever known clearly about complex carb?
Complex Carbohydrate is longer chain carbohydrate which has a complicated structure, where molecules are more densely linked than simple carb. Chemically, they usually comprise of three or more linked sugars.So it is simply understood that these complex carbohydrates take more time to break down and more time to get absorbed by the body cells and helps to restrain the rise in blood sugar.
So what is the difference between Simple and Complex Carbohydrate?
Actually carbohydrate is made up of three components : Sugar , Fiber and Starch ; Among these Sugar is simple Carb and Fiber and Starch is complex carb .
Simple Carbohydrates are those which have a simpler chemical structure of their building monomers . These are basically Sugar .So it includes all those sweet foods that we eat meeting the craving of our sweet tooth .These are commonly :
- Raw Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- White Sugar
- All kind of fruits ( fruits include fruit sugar or fructose )
- Glucose , Fructose , Sucrose , Galactose
- Milk sugar
These sugary products break down into glucose very easily after ingestion and get absorbed by the body cells which causes instant rise in blood sugar thus sugar gives you instant energy and provides your brain the fuel to work . But the unused glucose molecules which haven’t been used by cells to produce fuel for energy , remain stored and in the long term it turns into Fat inside our body.
Hence to be said, complex carbohydrate refers to any starches, including the highly refined starches and fibers :
- White/ Brown bread
- White/ Brown Rice
- Cakes /pastries /Corn / any wheat made products
- Bean / Legume / Pea
- Fruits/ Vegetables
- Cereal / Oats / Whole grains
- Many other food sources
So we can see there are plenty of sources of complex carbohydrates but as my article is about “Good” Carbs so what are the ones that we should choose for a healthy lifestyle ?
When dietitians and nutritionists advise having complex carbohydrates, however, they’re usually referring to whole grain foods and starchy vegetables which are embedded with more vitamins & nutrients .
Foods like Whole grains , starchy vegetables , legumes , beans , Nuts ; are packed with more nutrients than simple carb and much higher in fibers in which we can find Vit A, B Complex , D , E , K and micronutrients like sodium , potassium , selenium etc . Complex carbs take much longer time to digest , break down very slowly and get absorbed by the cells in a real slow manner .
Here one thing should be particularly mentioned . Complex carb breaks down into glucose according to the bodily need of energy . So after ingesting the good carbs , our body cells don’t get the chance to store the extra unused glucose . Thus it helps us to keep fit and lead a healthy lifestyle .
Let’s review the huge benefits of Complex carbs at a glance :
- Have more nutrients including various kinds of vitamins and minerals ;
- Fibrous carbohydrates helps to maintain a healthy bowel system as well as they help to increase the good fat (HDL) and to lower the bad fats ( Triglycerides and LDL)
- Whole grains ( non processed starches : brown rice , brown bread ) have Vitamin B complex which is essential to live ;
- As they take more time to digest , it keeps you feel more full than usual time thus it helps in weight control ; The dietitians often refer to have complex carb , eg: whole grains and starchy vegetables to add in the diet , if you are in a lower calorie diet ;
- They are hugely beneficial for the people with type 2 Diabetes as they take longer time to be broken down into sugar , it helps to control the blood sugar spike after meal ;
- They work as key to guard the heart health and helps to restrain the cardiovascular diseases in future ;
As you can see , we don’t really have to cut carbohydrates entirely from our life to maintain good health . It is all about choosing the right ones and lowering the bad ones . Nutritionists always ask to ensure 50-60% of your diet to be filled with carbohydrates to maintain a normal and balanced life . Here all you have to do is to choose the actual ones that will benefit you .
Chattogram Medical College
MBBS – 3rd Year