Friday, June 20, 2014

Navigating Carbs: Simple vs. Complex

 Lets talk CARBS! First things first: All carbs are not equal. I bet we all know this in general, but do we all really understand the specifics, and how it relates to the food we eat, and in turn, the effects on our bodies? I know prior to trying to lose my post college weight I had heard generally about simple and complex carbs, but really did not pay attention to it in terms of my food choices.

Let's start by defining carbohydrates. Carbohydrates essentially give the body the calories that are needed to produce energy. It is said the provide upwards of 60% of the body's energy used for normal functions such as digestion, heartbeat, breathing and movement. Carbs are often grouped by their chemical structure--simple and complex.

So you're probably wondering, so what's the difference Tee? Well I am glad you asked!

Simple carbohydrates are sugars with a chemical structure composed of one or two sugar molecules. They are a quick source or energy, and as a result, are quickly digested. The important take away here is simple carbs are refined sugars with minimal nutritional value. Due to their basic structure, simple carbs are processed rather quickly by the body and often spike the blood sugar.

There are two types of simple carbs-- monosaccharides (one sugar) and disaccharides (2 chemically linked monosaccharides). Some examples of monosaccharides include glucose and fructose. Examples of disaccharides include lactose and sucrose. I am sure we have all heard of some of these examples in processed foods (think high fructose corn syrup).

**there are some foods which contain simple carbs that are still good for you, like fruit or yogurt.

Complex carbohydrates have a chemical structure made up of 3 or  sugar molecules that are branched or strung together. They are rich in fiber, often high in protein/vitamins/minerals, and promote good health. Because they are so complex, they take the body longer to process, and also do not spike the blood sugar as rapidly as simple carbs.

Complex carbs are also categorized-- oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Oligosaccharides contain monosaccharides (no more than 10) and they are essential in absorbing minerals and forming fatty acids. Polysaccharides contain large numbers of monosaccharides and disaccharides, with examples including cellulose, glycogen, and starch. Complex carbs have a higher nutritional value than simple carbs and are often found in veggies, whole meal flours/breads/cereals.

Short story, I am a picky eater--anybody who knows me knows that well. I have always been one. Long nights sleeping/sitting at the the dinner table because I didn't want to eat, crying over food I didn't like, or eating one meal a day--pure misery lol. Anyway, one thing I always remember my father talking to be about is how important nourishment is for the body. He would always say that eating is just like gassing up your car--if you don't eat how do you expect your car to run? It's a shame we don't listen to parents straight away lol.

 I would add to that analogy though, that the quality of fuel is just as important as the fuel itself. Food should be enjoyable no doubt, but don't lose sight of WHY you're eating it. We should feel good, energized, rejuvenated, after eating. If you feel heavy or lethargic (*READ if you get the ITIS) then you are doing something wrong.

This is a great rule of thumb:

Do you have any thoughts or opinions? Comment below and share with a friend!

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