Carbohydrates are notoriously known as the food we love to hate, as it is the group most associated with bulk and weight gain. Worryingly, their bad reputation has lead to them being excluded in some popular diets, to the detriment of the dieters following them.
Whilst there are plenty of unhealthy carbohydrates to avoid, there are also important and healthier alternatives that are essential to a health diet.
There are two types of carbohydrates to consider. The first types are your simple carbohydrates, that contain simple sugars, found in processed foods like sodas, sweets and chocolates. The second types are your complex carbohydrates, which are found in whole grain foods, certain cereals, and fruit in particular.
The chemical structures of each is what sets these two apart; simple sugars consist of fewer molecules, whilst complex carbohydrates contain a significantly higher amount of molecules. Although both products will end up breaking down into glucose in your system, this difference in chemical structure means that simple sugars are far quicker to digest than their complex counterparts.
Therefore, if you were to eat the same amount of calories in simple carbohydrates as you were of complex ones, the simple sugars would leave you feeling hungry sooner, as your body would have digested them quicker than the complex ones. Many people wrongly assume that only obvious choices like sweets and chocolates contain sugar.
This could not be further from the truth, as white refined carbohydrates like cakes, pastries, rolls and breads all contain high quantities of sugar in them.
Even if you consume smaller portions of these simple sugars, they will leave you feeling hungrier sooner, which will probably lead to you overeating in the long run. Processed foods like this are also unhealthy, as they are usually packed with preservatives, as well as added salt and sugar. These foods spike your blood sugar levels quickly, and have been associated with lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity for many years.
Not only will eating complex carbohydrates give you the valuable nutrients you need in a day, they will also keep your blood sugar levels balanced, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer and prevent overeating. Fruit makes a great snack when you are busy and on the go, and will stop sugar cravings in their tracks.
Many products on the market today are required to have the wholegrain stamp of approval on them, so keep your eye out for breads and cereals labelled as such. Luckily for consumers today, manufacturers are going to extra lengths to improve traditional brands with a wholegrain variety, providing us with options when trying to choose healthier carbohydrates.