There are many things that you have to keep in mind when you are trying to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important things is to make sure that you eat the right types of nutrients, including the healthiest forms of carbohydrates.
For all of us who enjoy, we most definitely love carbs! Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that is required by the body for energy. However, most people live with the notion that carbs are bad. But, this isn’t true. It completely depends on finding and eating the good carbs.
You might have heard that you must eat complex carbs rather than simple carbs. If you have too many simple carbohydrates, you will run into a number of potential health problems including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. But what is the difference between these? Let’s understand better.
Simple Carbs vs Complex Carbs
Carbohydrates are made of three main components – fiber, starch, and sugar.
Complex carbs consist of fiber and starch along with sugars which takes the body a while to break down. Complex carbs are more nutritious and healthy owing to their high fiber and starch content. This makes your body digest complex carbs slowly, resulting in easy satiety. Complex carbs include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, contain only sugars which are easily broken down by the body. These include foods like raw sugar, brown sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, fruits, milk, and milk products. They tend to be less healthy and are more likely to lead to problems like fatty liver disease.
However, it’s not always easy to differentiate between simple carbs and complex carbs. You need to understand the glycemic index of each of the foods you consume to know what effect they have on your body.
What is Glycemic Index?
Glycemic Index (GI) is the rating system used for foods containing carbohydrates. Knowing the glycemic index, you can measure how quickly your blood sugar levels rise based on the food you eat. And this can help you manage your food intake better.
Foods rich in carbs and sugar usually have a higher GI as compared to foods high in protein, fats, or fiber. The higher the GI range, higher the spikes in your blood sugar levels. Hence, it is necessary to consume foods with a lower GI. And most complex carbs have a low GI.
The GI ranges can be categorized as follows:
- Low GI: 55 or less
- Medium GI: 56-69
- High GI: 70 or above
It is also important to note that glycemic load (GL) is not the same as glycemic index. GL factors in the amount of food eaten and the carb count in each serving to determine its effect on your blood sugar levels.
Hence, it is necessary that you consider glycemic index and glycemic load while selecting healthy carbs for managing your blood sugar levels. Simply put, simple carbs are usually on the higher side of the glycemic index whereas complex carbs have a lower glycemic index.
Benefits of complex carbs
1. Provides energy
You need carbs for your daily energy. Glucose from these carbs is the prime source for this. Instead of consuming simple carbs that can increase your blood sugar levels instantly, consume complex carbs. They take longer to digest, hence your fuel is sustainable for a longer time. You can exercise on a budget elliptical or a long stride elliptical after consuming a snack made of complex carbs for prolonged energy and max results.
2. Easy satiety
As mentioned, complex carbs take a longer time to digest, so you end up feeling full for a longer time. You don’t over eat and are able to stick to your healthy diet plan. There are a lot of good foods that you can eat to boost satiety, including boiled potatoes, fish and beans.
3. Manages weight
High fiber foods are low in calories promoting lesser calorie intake. They are also slowly digested leading to better satiety levels. Thus promoting weight loss.
4. Muscle growth
Protein is essential for muscle growth. Carbs are necessary for optimizing recovery in your body. Eating complex carbs post your workout replenishes your body’s glycogen stores and puts your body into a state of building muscles. You should also try to include a pre-workout supplement to ensure you get maximum results from your workout session.
5. Regulates blood sugar levels
Since complex carbs are broken down slowly, your blood sugar levels rise steadily and slowly. Thus it regulates blood sugars better.
6. Promotes digestive health
Complex carbs are rich in fiber which promotes bowel health. The fiber in veggies, fruits, and nuts are bulk-forming and insoluble. This helps boost gut health and form soft stools. A fiber-rich diet also protects you from colon diseases, hemorrhoids, and colorectal cancer.
Sources of Complex Carbs
Focus on including the following complex carbs in your daily diet:
- Whole grains: Wheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, millets, barley, whole-grain cereals and whole-grain bread.
- Starchy vegetables: Beets, butternut squash, corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, zucchini, and pumpkin.
- Fiber-rich vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and leafy greens.
- Fiber-rich fruits: Oranges, bananas, apples, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and pears.
- Beans & legumes: Lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, peas, and soybeans.
- Nuts & seeds: Almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashew nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
What’s your final takeaway?
Focus on eating the above complex carbs in your salads, smoothies, curries, and rice. Ensure that you are checking your food’s glycemic index and glycemic load to understand the benefits of each food type. Not all complex carbs are healthy. Opt for healthier options and eat what suits you and your body.