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How to Choose Healthy Carbohydrates

Jun 19, 2010

In recent years, a lot of pronouncements have been made about the detrimental effects of carbohydrates. This has led to the emergence of low-carb fad diets. In reality, carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for physical activity, and it is vital for the proper functioning of various organs in the body. However, certain types of carbohydrates are more beneficial than others, and consumption of these carbohydrates will lead to better health.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are starches, sugars and cellulose, and they are broken down and converted into glucose, or blood sugar, after they are consumed. There are 2 types of carbohydrates: simple and complex carbohydrates, and the classification of foods into these categorized is based on the speed at which sugar is broken down and absorbed. Simple carbohydrates can be absorbed at a faster rate because they are made up of only 1 or 2 sugar units. Over-consumption of this kind of carbohydrates can lead to increased blood sugar level, which can worsen conditions such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are considered the healthier carbohydrates, because the body takes a longer time to digest and absorb them. As such, they provide a more sustained release of energy, and they can improve appetite control.

Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates

Healthy carbohydrates are found in many different types of food. Generally, natural and unrefined foods with low glycemic index values are the healthiest. Here are some of the carb foods that you should include in your diet.

1) Fruits and Vegetables: Most fruits and vegetables are not high in calories, and they contain essential nutrients such as vitamins, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals. They can help you maintain a healthy body weight and bring other benefits to your body. According to studies, those who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables are less susceptible to heart illnesses and cancer. To make sure that you get enough carbohydrates and other important nutrients, you should eat a minimum of 5 portions of fruits and vegetables everyday.

2) Whole Grains: In place of regular pasta, noodles or rice, you should try to consume unrefined whole grain versions of these foods. Unrefined whole grains are moderately low in calories, and they are high in fiber. Since the body takes a longer time to digest them, they can make you feel fuller for a longer period of time. They are excellent options for those who are planning to lose weight. Examples of whole grains include wholegrain bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and oats.

3) Sweet Potatoes: Potatoes contain very little fat, and they contain good amounts of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. However, regular potatoes have high glycemic index values, and they can contribute to health problems if they are consumed excessively. They should be replaced with sweet potatoes and new potatoes, which have lower glycemic index values.

4) Beans: Beans are a healthy carb food that contains lots of fiber and protein. They can improve the efficiency of the digestive system and promote overall health. They are the main source of protein in many vegetarian diets. 

 

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