Carbs vs Sugar – Can you Tell The Difference? Part 2

In the previous article we had learned that carbohydrates are not only these “bad sugars” we used to think about. They are an integral part of a healthy and balanced diet we should follow to give our bodies maximum nutrition.

Today, let’s focus on each carbohydrates group to better understand their role in meal composition.

Simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are popularly called simple sugars. Sugars are found in a variety of natural food sources, including fruit, vegetables and milk, and provide this type of food with a sweet taste. But watch out – they also spike blood glucose levels very quickly!

The common advice (coming from a medical environment) is to consume less than 70g a day of simple sugar for men and under 50g of simple sugar a day for women. However, notice that people with diabetes will benefit from even lower sugar intake (this must be consulted with a physician).

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates take more time to break down (lower glycemic index*) and don’t spike blood sugar that quickly. Complex carbs are protective against type 2 diabetes, are rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and are weight loss friendly. Lower glycemic index and glycemic load may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, so it will let you feel better.

*Glycemic index is a measure of how the carbohydrate in a specific food raises blood sugar. Glycemic load is based on how much of that food’s carbohydrate is eaten. Meals with a high glycemic load rapidly increase blood glucose and insulin levels, while meals with a low glycemic load moderate these responses. Evidence suggests that diets with a low glycemic load may be associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body.

How to eat right, then?

What you really want to prioritize in your diet is to compound whole grain starches (carbs), that contain micronutrients, fiber and are slowly digested and absorbed. What you want to eat are whole grain rice, bread and any other products made from whole grain flour.

White bread, cakes, pastries etc. contain compound carbs (starches) too but they are not whole grain and are not rich in micronutrients and fiber, making them health and weight loss enemies equally with simple sugars.

Also, although we can call compound starches the most healthy carbs, if you have any allergies, intolerance or sensitivity, some particular types of starches may be problematic. Gluten-based starches (wheat, rye, barley) may be problematic for gluten sensitive people (you don’t have to have a celiakia to feel uncomfortable!) and cause bloating, water retention and lethargy.

Beans and legumes can stress gastrointestinal tract (GI), leaky gut syndrome and inhibition of protein digestion and amino acid absorption. Many cereal grains contain the phytic acid that can also cause GI distress and inhibit mineral absorption.

It is worth keeping that in mind. Everybody is different so experiment with the food! If you don’t notice any disturbing symptoms of these products, feel free to eat them!

Refined carbs

Remember, that some food will not give you anything beneficial, so it’s worthless to put it to your body. Refined carbs are sugars that provide no nutrition aside from energy (empty calories). Many processed foods contain added sugars. Refined carbohydrates refer to carbohydrates that have been processed. This should be definitely something to avoid!

If you take a grain that the bran and kernel have been stripped out, the starch would be the only thing that’s left. There is no fiber inside! That carbohydrates are broken down by the body faster and they can raise blood glucose levels as quickly as simple sugars.

Simple sugars can also be refined. A prominent example of a processed sugar is glucose-fructose syrup, also known as high fructose corn syrup. Watch out – this is nothing but a poison to your body! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup can cause insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. Food companies put these ingredients in such a variety of ready products, so you have to be careful and always pay attention to the labels.

Insoluble fiber

There is a part of carbohydrates you should look for, though. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that does not dissolve in water. In simple words, insoluble fiber adds bulk to our stools helping to pass solids out more easily.

Fibre is important for everybody as it maintains good gut health. Recommended sources of this form of fibre are vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Insoluble fibre is helpful for the health of our gut because it promotes movement in the bowel, prevents constipation, helps good gut bacteria to grow and may help reduce the risk of haemorrhoids (piles) and diverticulosis.

Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain foods (such wheat bran, brown rice and couscous), root vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes, celery, cucumbers and courgettes), fruit with edible seeds (don’t peel of the skin! This is a good source of insoluble fibre!), beans, pulses and lentils or nuts and seeds.

Though knowledge, huh?

Lot’s of difficult facts to understand… Don’t worry! Come back here every Thursday and so you can better understand what I’m trying to teach you. It’s not that hard! We will break through even the most difficult issues to keep you aware of your everyday’s choices. Today I have one mission for you: don’t be afraid of carbohydrates! They will not make you fat if you know how to manage it! Eating at the right time and in the right amounts help you to stay healthy, nutritious and energetic every day!

I hope you find it interesting!

Coach Lucy, PhD

In collaboration with Sweet and Fit Vegas,

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Disclaimer: prior to making any changes to your diet discuss it with your dietitian or physician.

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