Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine
Carbohydrates: The Refined Carbs vs Whole Carbs
Finding the correct information regarding health and nutrition can be misleading because of our body's complexity. One of the great nutritional debates among the general public revolves around this five-letter word: carbs.
Raise your hand if you seek answers to the following questions:
Do carbs cause weight gain?
Should we avoid carbs altogether?
Do any carbs provide health benefits?
Is keto the answer to the carb conundrum?
Which foods are considered carbs?
Let’s start with the basics: What is a carbohydrate?
There are three macronutrients in the nutrition world: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. A standard Bariatric diet consists of the following percentages for macronutrients: 40% protein, 40% fat, and 20% carbohydrates. When consumed in recommended portions, carbohydrates fuel your body’s tissues, cells, and organs.
The "problem” occurs when you eat excess carbs, leading to weight gain. Eating simple carbohydrates causes your blood sugar levels to rise, making your body more insulin. As a result, you store the excess glucose (carbohydrates that have turned into sugar) as fat.
This is why many questions about the relationship between carbohydrates and obesity exist. While there are endless actual food products, there are only two main categories of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Types of Simple Carbohydrates:
Foods with added sugars are easily found on the packaging because manufacturers disguise them as the following: glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, or crystal dextrose. Put the food item down when you see any of those on the ingredient list.
These are chemical compounds that all break down in your body as sugar. They are found in everything from ice cream and cookies to alcohol (looking at you, vino), right down to that Asian sesame dressing you love.
These foods needed for quick energy, such as pasta, cereal, bread, and rice. Excess amounts of these foods are turned into sugar and stored as fat.
Types of Complex Carbohydrates:
Examples of complex carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, quinoa and legumes. These foods contain fiber and nutrients, which have been shown to improve metabolic health and reduce the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The keyword in the above sentence is fiber, which plays several roles in our body's digestive system:
- It provides satiety which prevents weight gain.
- It improves our immune health, including detoxification.
- Reduces excess estrogen in the body, which helps control cholesterol and lipid levels.
- Healthy Vitamin Bs for vitality.
- Resolves constipation issues.
The roles of carbohydrates are versatile and complex, so they have much to offer nutritionally.
The key is knowing when and which carbohydrates to eat. The main difference between refined carbs vs whole carbs is simple. When you consume refined carbs, this causes a spike in insulin and blood glucose levels.
Instead of feeling satiated, you will experience more cravings. Studies have shown that excess sugar consumption (due to simple carbs) affects the brain as cocaine does!
Instead, the key is to include complex carbs in your protein-rich meals with healthy fats. This balance keeps the slow burn of calories, keeps you full longer, and regulates and maintains brain function.
Not sure if that next meal you wanted to cook has the nutrient-dense, low-sugar ingredients needed for successful weight loss?
A great resource is the Glycemic Index table of foods, which organizes foods into high, medium, and low glycemic categories. This index table has been established to help maintain blood glucose and encourage weight management.
Now that the refined carbs vs whole carbs mystery have been debunked selecting butternut squash over traditional pasta will be a breeze!