In honor of National Diabetes Month we are here to bust the myth surrounding carbohydrates. Over the years, carbohydrates have gotten bad press. You may have heard that carbs lead to weight gain, diabetes, or increase inflammation BUT carbs are actually not the enemy.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fat), which means they are one of the main sources of energy for our body. They consist of sugars, starches, and fibers found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates
There are two groups of carbohydrates – simple and complex, or refined and whole grain. The difference lies in how they are broken down in the body. Simple or refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly, which could lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Examples are white bread, baked goods, soda, honey, and syrup. Complex carbohydrates, or whole grains, are larger molecules and are absorbed more slowly, which keeps our blood sugar steady. Examples include grains, fruits, and vegetables. Complex carbs contain all three parts of the grain – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Whereas, refined grains only have the endosperm. Complex carbohydrates also tend to be higher in fiber, which helps us feel satisfied longer.
Complex carbohydrates pack a nutritious punch with a variety of vitamins and minerals – B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and more depending on the food. The high fiber content of complex carbs can help lower LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol, maintain digestive and heart health, and keeps blood sugar consistent. Simple carbohydrates definitely have a place in a healthy diet, restriction is not the answer. Be mindful of portion sizes and try to pair refined carbohydrates with protein or fat to help slow down the digestion process and keep blood sugar stable.
Carbohydrates and Diabetes
Carbohydrates CAN fit into a well-balanced and healthy diet for an individual with diabetes – no need to avoid an entire food group and our body’s main source of energy. Focus on including complex carbohydrates from sources like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and dairy products. Just like any other healthy diet, try to avoid foods with a ton of added sugars. Be consistent with your carbohydrate intake and spread them out during the day to prevent blood sugar spikes and drops.
Whole Grain Examples:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Sweet potatoes
- What are your favorite carbohydrates to add to your daily meals?