When you hear someone talking about carbs, what sort of things do you hear them say? Do they talk about how they make you gain weight (specifically fat) and raise your blood sugar? While these statements are common, there’s more to carbohydrates than just the bad reputation they’ve gotten recently.
What Is a Carbohydrate?
In simplest terms, carbohydrates are sugar molecules. There are three types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. Sugar is the simplest carbohydrate. Sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and lactose (dairy sugar) are the three main types of sugar. Starch and fiber are more complex forms of carbohydrates, made of multiple molecules bound together. You can find both in vegetables, whole grains, beans, and peas.
What Do Carbohydrates Do?
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. They fuel your body and are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fiber has lots of benefits, from lowering your risk of stroke and heart disease to reducing your risk of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and colon and rectal cancers. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates tend to be more filling and nutrient-dense. That allows you to feel more satisfied with fewer calories, helping you control your weight.
What Carbohydrates Are Best?
Most of the time, people who talk about avoiding carbohydrates are talking about avoiding sugar and grains, but those aren’t the only forms of carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates (starch and fiber), are especially important. They give you lasting energy and are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. So which sources of carbohydrates should you choose? Go for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like raspberries, oranges, pears, carrots, broccoli, and green peas. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains for an easy way to get more nutrients and fiber. Low-fat dairy products provide important nutrients while controlling fat intake. Beans and lentils offer a balance of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making them a good source of healthy carbohydrates as well.
Carbs have gotten a bad rap over the last few years, but it’s not entirely deserved. Carbohydrates are still an important macronutrient, one your body needs to stay healthy. As with any macronutrient, it’s more important to choose your carbohydrate sources with care and make sure they’re in proportion with the fats and proteins you consume. That will help you eat a nutritious, balanced diet, something that is more likely to help you stay healthy and fueled.
Carbohydrates are a great source of fiber, an essential element of healthy diets. Not sure how to get the fiber you need? Click here for suggestions from The Nauvoo for great high-fiber dishes to try.