CARBOHYDRATES: WHAT ARE THEY?

October 6th, 2011

SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES

Simple carbohydrates are mainly sugars: white or brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and most other sweeteners.  Soft drinks, candy, fruits, jellies, jams, ice cream, pudding, and baked goods are examples of foods high in simple carbohydrates.  In addition, many common foods are hidden sources.  Sugar is a common additive in bread, salad dressings, ketchup, soups and many other prepared foods in grocery stores.  It can also be called by other names such as dextrose, sucrose and fructose.  Simple carbohydrates are referred to as “empty  calories” because they lack the necessary vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and proteins that are needed to energize your body’s metabolism.  They contribute nothing except calories to the diet and they may upset the body’s sugar balance.  Excess sugars are stored in the body as fat.

 COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES

Complex carbohydrates are unprocessed, unrefined vegetables, dried beans, peas and grains.  Fruits contain complex as well as simple carbohydrates.  Brown rice, barley, amaranth, quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat, whole-wheat, unprocessed whole grain breads, cereals, crackers and spaghetti are examples of foods which contain complex  carbohydrates.  While white bread, spaghetti, macaroni, white rice, processed potatoes and many breakfast cereals are technically complex carbohydrates, they have been stripped of most of their value as nutrients during processing including their outer bran layer, an excellent source of fiber.

 SUGGESTIONS TO FOLLOW

  • Use in moderation, unrefined sweeteners such as maple syrup and fruit juice concentrates which are largely fructose and are more slowly absorbed into the body than other sugars.
  • Use only foods made from or containing 100% whole grains (complex carbohydrates as described above) without refined sugar.  Check label of packages for ingredients.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables fresh.  Pre-cooked, frozen, canned and other processed fruits and vegetables are lower in nutrients.
  • Substitute blender drinks for soft drinks.  For example, mix fruit and milk or soymilk or yogurt in a blender to make a delicious drink.
  • Try making your own condiments.  Store bought ketchup and salad dressings generally contain large amounts of sugar, preservatives and other additives.
  • Instead of pre-packaged snacks, try raw nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grain crackers, sesame seed cookies , that provide nutrients and are deliciously satisfying.  Again, learn to read labels on packages.
  • Eat plenty of beans and peas which, in addition to being complex carbohydrates, also form complete proteins when eaten with grains, stabilize blood sugar, provide fiber calcium and other nutritional benefits.
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