You’ve probably heard that carbs are bad for your health, hence the notorious title “bad carbs.” They make you gain weight, they make you tired, and can lead to all sorts of health problems.
While that’s somewhat true, the mistake is not understanding the difference between simple carbs (bad) and complex carbs (not so bad). Here’s what you need to know about your carbs.
Complex Carbs Might Be Your Friends
Quick and easy science. Ready? All calories are made up of either carbohydrates, fat, or protein. Just like there are different types of fat: omega 3s and omega 6s, there are different types of carbohydrates. The two basic types of carbs are simple and complex.
Simple carbs are what you think of as sugars — syrup, white sugar, sodas, candy, sweet fruit juice, and honey. You know, all the good stuff, so it’s definitely bad for you. Complex carbs are sugars too, but they’re composed of longer chains of sugars. This means they take longer for your body to use as energy, which is good. Your body wants a slow release of energy instead of a short sugar high and crash. These good, complex carbs are present in foods like vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Fiber and Complex Carbohydrates
If both simple and complex carbs are sugars, what else makes complex carbs better than simple carbs? Fiber with carbohydrates slows down the digestion process. This releases glucose into your body, energy, much slower than if there were no fiber present. All vegetables are complex carbohydrates, and many are high in fiber. Brown rice also contains a lot more fiber than white rice. And similarly, whole grain pasta contains more fiber than the refined variety. Yes, it does matter whether you choose that whole grain pasta after all.
Where do Complex Carbs Rank?
You need to get some carbohydrates in your diet — it’s your primary fuel source. Some diets focus on protein or fat as a calorie source but don’t completely cut out complex carbs. They’re necessary for your body to produce energy (unless you’re on a diet that puts your body into a state called ketosis). Be mindful of strict anti-carb diets. You’ll miss out on other nutrients, and fiber that most health professionals agree are vital for health. Most experts agree that the healthiest diets have lots of vegetables and beans, complex carbs high in fiber, and minimal simple carbs.
Overall, complex carbs rank as very healthy for most people’s diets. It’s not too many carbs that make us feel inadequate and sluggish, it’s the wrong kind of carbs. So, favor complex carbs, and you should feel energetic and healthy without the adverse effects of the simple carbs. Sorry, but that pasta with vegan cheese is still considered a bad carb (though we aren’t judging).