Understanding the Difference Between Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can seem confusing – some are considered “good” while others are deemed “bad.”

Dr. Neal Malik, MPH, RDN, CHES, EP-C, a core faculty member at the School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University in California, explains that processed carbohydrates (sometimes called refined carbohydrates) are lacking fiber, as well as many important nutrients such vitamins and minerals. Consuming these processed carbohydrates may lead to a spike in blood sugar, and is often associated with a number of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

carbs

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It’s tough for even the most health conscious eaters to know for sure which carbohydrates to avoid, and which can have great health benefits. Dr. Malik breaks it down below:

  • DO incorporate whole grains into your diet. These include whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, brown or wild rice and quinoa. They are minimally processed and therefore provide more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts.
  • DON’T drink soda. Most people forget that sodas are full of carbohydrates. They’re main ingredient is sugar, which is an extremely processed carb!
  • DO eat lots of beans and legumes. These foods contain plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They can also increase feelings of satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer.
  • DON’T sip on fruit juice. One whole orange is not equal to one glass of orange juice, so you are getting several times the recommended serving amount without the satiety. Even 100% fruit juice contains fructose (a sugar and therefore carbohydrate) which is absorbed and processed by the body quicker than if one were to eat a whole fruit.
  • DO eat sweet potatoes. The bright orange color signifies that these carbohydrates are a wonderful source of Vitamin A and fiber.

Additional Reading

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek, PhD, Stephen Phimmey, MD

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One Comment

  • Spot on post! Many people falsely assume all carbohydrates are the same and all are equally bad. Then they’ll go on a low-carb diet which is a shame because carbohydrates are important for energy and serotonin levels in the brain.

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