Carbohydrates | Main Types, Health Wellness Benefits & Risks

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to have as a recipe for a healthy diet. Obviously, they are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

In general, carbohydrates are macronutrients, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories. In fact, the American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Basically, there are three macronutrients that are involved in the wholesome process: Including carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Whereby, macronutrients are essential for proper body functioning, and the body requires large amounts of them. However, all macronutrients must be obtained through diet since the body cannot produce them on its own. Be that as it may, the recommended daily amount (RDA) of carbs for adults is 135 grams, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

However, the NIH also recommends that everyone should have his or her own carbohydrate goal. Carbs intake for most people should be between 45% and 65% of total calories. One gram of carbohydrates equals about 4 calories. So, a diet of 1,800 calories per day would equal about 202 grams on the low end and 292 grams of carbs on the high end.

The Overall Functions Of Carbohydrates On Our Body Health

Just as we aforementioned, it’s worth mentioning that Carbohydrates (Carbs), are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of the three main nutrients found in foods and drinks. Since your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the main source of energy for your body’s cells, tissues, and organs.

Arguably, most people with diabetes should not eat more than 200 grams of carbs per day. While pregnant women need at least 175 grams. Overall, carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. They also prevent protein from being used as an energy source, enable fat metabolism, and are important for brain function.

Additionally, most Carbohydrates and related minerals are also found naturally in some forms of dairy and both starchy and nonstarchy vegetables. For example, nonstarchy vegetables like Lettuce, Kale, Green Beans, Celery, Carrots, and Broccoli all contain Carbs. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn also contain carbohydrates but in larger amounts.

For one thing, they are an influence on “mood, memory, etc., as well as a quick energy source.” In fact, the RDA of carbohydrates is based on the number of carbs the brain needs to function. Two recent studies published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have also linked carbs to decision-making — they also made a keynote.

That, most people who ate a high-carb breakfast were less willing to share when playing the “ultimatum game” than those who ate high-protein breakfasts. Scientists speculate this may be caused by baseline dopamine levels, which are higher after eating. Thus, carbs don’t make you mean but underscore how different food types of intake affects cognition and behavior.

Understanding Simple Vs Complex Carbohydrates Main Differences

You’ve probably heard that certain types of carbs are healthier than others and that Complex Carbs should be prioritized over refined or simple carbs. Thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets, some carb-heavy foods have been unfairly blacklisted. But, there’s no need to be scared of spuds or ban bananas. We’re setting the record straight — so dig in guilt-free!

Realistically, while all Carbohydrates function as relatively quick energy sources, Simple Carbohydrates cause bursts of energy much more quickly than complex carbs. Simply, because of the quicker rate at which they are digested and absorbed. They can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, while Complex Carbohydrates provide more sustained energy.

All Carbohydrates are made up of sugars such as glucose, fructose, and galactose. That being said, it’s important to realize, the Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates is very slim — they are divided into categories and classified as Simple Carbs or Complex Carbs to be precise. More so, according to the number of sugar units (chemicals) they contain.

Whereby, the difference between the two forms is the chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. Not forgetting, that Carbohydrates with two sugars — such as sucrose (table sugar), lactose (from dairy), and maltose (found in beer and some vegetables) — are called disaccharides, according to the NIH.

About Simple Carbohydrates

Generally speaking, simple carbs are digested and absorbed more quickly and easily than complex carbs, according to the NIH. Simple Carbohydrates contain just one or two sugars such as fructose (found in fruits) and galactose (found in milk products). These single sugars (monosaccharides) are the simplest and smallest type of sugar made up of just one sugar unit.

In simple terms, when you consume Carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into Monosaccharides so they can be absorbed and used for energy. Bear in mind, that Simple Carbs can also be found in candy, soda, and syrups — not to be confused with Complex Carbs in the labels. Equally important, Disaccharides are made of two bonded Monosaccharide units.

  1. Glucose
  2. Fructose
  3. Galactose
  1. Sucrose (glucose + fructose)
  2. Maltose (glucose + glucose)
  3. Lactose (glucose + galactose)

Notably, Simple Sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose are found in a number of foods, including healthy foods like fruits and dairy products. However, many less healthy, ultra-processed foods are high in simple sugars like high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar. Some examples of foods and drinks high in simple sugars include candy, soda, sugary cereal, and ice cream.

Biologically, Simple Carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. Usually, Simple Carbohydrates are found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk, and milk products. They are also found in processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks. The majority of intake should come from Complex Carb (starches).

As well as other naturally occurring sugars rather than processed or refined sugars. For instance, peas are a great source of phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. A cup of cooked green peas also boasts more than 7 grams of filling fiber. You can go ahead and try to eat them straight up or in soups or salads, or rather, add dried peas to a trail mix.

About Complex Carbohydrates

In the same fashion, Complex Carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together (Polysaccharides) in long, complex chains. For this reason, they make it harder for your body to break them down. Simply, this is because they take longer to digest the Complex Strands because of a more gradual increase in blood sugar compared to Simple Carbs.

Complex Carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Both Simple and Complex Carbohydrates are turned into glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy. Glucose is used in the cells of the body and in the brain. And then, thereafter, any unused glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for use later.

  1. Starch
  2. Glycogen
  3. Fiber

Starch and fiber are the polysaccharides found in food, while glycogen is only found in our bodies. Glycogen is the storage form of Carbohydrates in animals and humans. Must be remembered, that we often use Glycogen stored in our muscles and liver for energy. By the same token, Starches and Fibers are concentrated in foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains.

Unlike starches, fibers aren’t digested by the body. Instead, they help promote digestive health by fueling beneficial gut bacteria and keeping bowel movements comfortable and regular. They also provide quality quick-fix vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to the health of an individual. Unlike foods that are made with processed and refined sugars.

How Carbohydrates Help Benefit Our Overall Body Health

Always remember, when it comes to dietary planning, most people will still do it wrong without even knowing it. Suffice it to say, some are even often confused about the likes of Carbohydrates. Keep in mind, that it’s more important to eat Carbs from healthy foods than to follow a strict diet limiting or counting the number of grams of Carbs consumed.

In some recent studies, they have shown that replacing saturated fats with simple carbs, such as those in many processed foods, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s best to focus on getting primarily complex carbs in your diet, including whole grains and vegetables. You can watch the video below to learn more.

Simply put, the right kind of Carbs can be incredibly good for you. Compared to people who eat a lot of Simple Carbs, people who follow diets high in Complex Carbs rich in fiber tend to have lower rates of a number of chronic diseases including heart disease and colon cancer. Plus, fiber helps you feel satisfied, and it also tends to give people who eat it less body fat.

The majority of Carbohydrates should come from Complex Carbohydrates (starches) but in their naturally occurring sugars. Including beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain bread, and cereals. Perse, rather than processed or refined sugars — which do not have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in complex Carbohydrates.

But, all in all, not only are they necessary for your health, but they carry a variety of added benefits — that’s why you should consider including them in your dietary meals. Below are the simplified health benefits of Carbohydrates to know.

1. Mental Health

Carbohydrates may be important to mental health and the brain. A study published in 2009 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that people on a high-fat, low-carb diet for a year had more anxiety, depression, and anger than people on a low-fat, high-carb diet. Scientists suspect that carbohydrates help with the production of serotonin in the brain.

Carbs may help memory, too. A 2008 study at Tufts University had overweight women cut carbs entirely from their diets for one week. Then, they tested the women’s cognitive skills, visual attention, and spatial memory. The women on no-carb diets did worse than overweight women on low-calorie diets that contained a healthy amount of carbohydrates.

2. Weight Loss

Though carbs are often blamed for weight gain, the right kind can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. This happens because many good carbohydrates, especially whole grains, and vegetables with skin, contain fiber. It is difficult to get sufficient fiber on a low-carb diet. Dietary fiber helps you to feel full and generally comes in relatively low-calorie foods.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009 followed middle-aged women for 20 months and found that participants who ate more fiber lost weight, while those who decreased their fiber intake gained weight. What’s more, another yet most recent study linked Obesity & Overweight fat loss with low-fat diets, not low-carbohydrate dietary meals.

While some studies have found that low-carb diets do help people lose weight, a meta-analysis conducted in 2015 and published in The Lancet found that when viewed long-term, low-fat and low-carb diets had similar success rates. People lost more weight early on while on low-carb diets but after a year they were all in similar places.

3. Nutrients Source

Whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are well known for their nutrient content. As a matter of fact, some are even considered superfoods because of it — and all of these leafy greens, bright sweet potatoes, juicy berries, tangy citruses, and crunchy apples contain carbs. One important, plentiful source of good carbs is whole grains.

A large study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that those eating the most whole grains had significantly higher amounts of fiber. With increased energy and polyunsaturated fats, as well as all micronutrients (except vitamin B12 and sodium). Whole grains contain antioxidants — only thought to exist in fruits and vegetables.

4. Heart Health

Fiber also helps to lower cholesterol, said Kelly Toups, a registered dietitian with the Whole Grains Council in this case. The digestive process requires bile acids, which are made partly with cholesterol. As your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid, thereby reducing the amount of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.

Toups referenced a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looked at the effect of whole grains on patients taking cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. Those who ate more than 16 grams of whole grains daily had lower bad-cholesterol levels than those who took the statins without eating the whole grains.

What You Should Know About Sugars, Starches, And Fibers

In the body, Carbohydrates break down into smaller units of sugar, such as glucose and fructose. The small intestine absorbs these smaller units, which then enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver. The liver converts all of these sugars into glucose. Eventually, which is then carried through the bloodstream — accompanied by insulin — and converted into energy.

Especially, for basic body functioning and physical activity. If the glucose is not immediately needed for energy, the body can store up to 2,000 calories of it in the liver and skeletal muscles in the form of glycogen. Once glycogen stores are full, carbs are stored as fat. As a matter of fact, Fibers promote healthy bowel movements and decrease the risk of chronic diseases.

Learn More: Good Carbs, Bad Carbs — How To Make The Right Choices

Such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. However, unlike sugars and starches, fibers are not absorbed in the small intestine and are not converted to glucose. Instead, they pass into the large intestine relatively intact, where they are converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and fatty acids. The Institute of Medicine recommends that people consume 14 grams of fiber.

In particular, for every 1,000 calories. Sources of fiber include fruits, grains, and vegetables, especially legumes. According to the American Diabetes Association, nonstarchy vegetables generally contain only about 5 grams of carbohydrates per cup of raw vegetables. And most of those carbs come from fiber.

How Do You Make The Right Choice Of Carbohydrates?

Most importantly, the type of Carbs you choose to eat because some sources are healthier than others. The amount of carbohydrates in the diet – high or low – is less important than the type of carbohydrate in the diet. For example, healthy, whole grains like whole wheat bread, rye, barley, and quinoa are better choices than highly refined white bread or French fries.

Carbs are highly controversial these days. The dietary guidelines suggest that we get about half of our calories from carbs. For some reason, others claim that some carbohydrates may cause obesity and type 2 diabetes and that most people should be avoiding them. There are good arguments on both sides, and it appears that Carbohydrate requirements will depend.

More so, largely on per an individual requirement. Meaning, that some people will do much better with lower Carbohydrate intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbohydrates. According to Healthy Geezer Fred Cicetti, carbs commonly considered bad include pastries, sodas, highly processed foods, white rice, white bread, and white-flour foods.

Of course, yes, these are foods with simple carbs — but bad Carbs rarely have any nutritional value. By the same token, Carbs usually considered good are complex carbs. Like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes. As can be seen, it’s good to note that the Pritikin Longevity Center offers this checklist for determining if a carbohydrate is “good” or “bad.”

Good Carbs Are:
  • Low or moderate in calories
  • High in nutrients
  • Devoid of refined sugars and refined grains
  • High in naturally occurring fiber
  • Low in sodium
  • Low in saturated fat
  • Very low in, or devoid of, cholesterol and trans fats
Bad Carbs Are:
  • High in calories
  • Full of refined sugars, like corn syrup, white sugar, honey, and fruit juices
  • High in refined grains like white flour
  • Low in many nutrients
  • Low in fiber
  • High in sodium
  • Sometimes high in saturated fat
  • Sometimes high in cholesterol and trans fats

Recently, nutritionists have said that it’s not the type of Carbohydrate, but rather the carb’s glycemic index, that’s important. The glycemic index measures how quickly and how much a carbohydrate raises blood sugar.

What Is The Role Of The Glycemic Index?

Carbohydrates are an essential part of our dietary plan, but not all carbohydrate foods are equal. With this in mind, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. In reality, Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized.

And, as such, they can cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels. High-glycemic foods like pastries raise blood sugar highly and rapidly. While low-glycemic foods raise it gently and to a lesser degree. According to Harvard Medical School, high-glycemic foods are linked with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers.

On the other hand, recent research suggests that following a low-glycemic diet may not actually be helpful. At the same time, a 2014 study published in JAMA found that overweight adults eating a balanced diet did not see much additional improvement on a low-calorie, low-glycemic index diet.

Scientists Measured:
  • Insulin Sensitivity
  • Systolic Blood Pressure
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol

Whereby, they saw that the low-glycemic diet did not improve them. It did lower triglycerides.

Why Quality Over Quantity In Carbohydrates Usually Matters

To begin with, not getting enough carbs can cause problems. Without sufficient fuel, the body gets no energy. Additionally, without sufficient glucose, the central nervous system suffers. As a result, according to Iowa State University, this may cause dizziness or mental and physical weakness. Let’s say a body has insufficient carbohydrate intake or stores.

Well, on the one hand, it will consume protein for fuel. Obviously, this can be quite problematic because the body needs protein to make muscles. On the other hand, using protein as fuel instead of carbohydrates also puts stress on the kidneys. Leading to the passage of painful byproducts in the urine, according to the University of Cincinnati. Watch this video for more.

People who don’t consume enough carbohydrates may also suffer from insufficient fiber, which can cause digestive problems and constipation. That said, there are a few tips that you can try to help you start adding healthy carbs to your diet.

1. Start the day with whole grains

Try a hot cereal, like steel cut or old-fashioned oats (not instant oatmeal), or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list and is low in sugar. A good rule of thumb: Choose a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

2. Use whole grain bread for lunch or snacks

Confused about how to find whole-grain bread? Look for bread that lists as the first ingredient whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain — and even better, one that is made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread.

3. Also look beyond the bread aisle

Whole wheat bread is often made with finely ground flour, and bread products are often high in sodium. Instead of bread, try a whole grain in salad form such as brown rice or quinoa.

4. Choose whole fruit instead of juice

An orange has two times as much fiber and half as much sugar as a 12-ounce glass of orange juice.

5. Pass on potatoes, and instead bring on the beans

Rather than fill up on potatoes – which have been found to promote weight gain  – choose beans for an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates. Beans and other legumes such as chickpeas also provide a healthy dose of protein.

Takeaway Notes:

Overall, Carbohydrates are useful mineral compounds to our general body health that are found in a wide array of both healthy and unhealthy foods — bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms — with the most common and abundant forms being sugars, fibers, and starches.

It’s, important to realize, that foods high in Carbohydrates (simple or complex) are an important part of a healthy dietary meal. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. But, Carbohydrate quality is important; some types of Carbohydrate-rich foods are better than others.

In a nutshell, Simple Sugars are easily digested by the body, which causes a rapid increase in blood sugar and a release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas. Additionally, foods rich in Simple Carbohydrates such as candy bars, soda, and sugary baked goods are high in calories. However, they are low in important nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Because of this and many other reasons and concerns, it’s now clear to note that a diet too high in Simple Carbohydrates can increase your risk of developing various health conditions. Such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or even stroke. What’s more, refined sugars are often called “empty calories” because they have little to no nutritional value.

Consider these useful notes:
  • On one side, the healthiest sources of carbohydrates — unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans — promote good health. In particular, by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
  • On the other side, unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. They contain easily digested Carbs that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.

With that in mind, The Healthy Eating Plate recommends filling most of your plate with healthy carbohydrates – with vegetables (except potatoes) and fruits taking up about half of your plate, and whole grains filling up about one-fourth of your plate.

Other More Related Resource References:
  1. Coconut Oil | 10 Health Benefits that Fulfill Its Hype
  2. Cassava | Its Health Benefits, Nutrition Value & Risk Effects
  3. Ketogenic Diet | Its Main Health Benefits Plus Risks To Note
  4. Smoothie Ingredients | The #10 Topmost Best Homemade Recipes
  5. What Is Malanga? 8 Key Health Benefits You Should Know About
  6. Dietary Fiber: Why It Is An Essential Element For A Healthy Diet
  7. Bananas | Nutritional Health Benefits Plus Dietary Plan Tips

That’s it! We hope that the above-revised guide will help you in strategizing for your next Carbohydrate dietary plan. But, if you’ll require additional information in regards to the topic, kindly feel free to Contact Us and let us know how we can come in handy. You are also welcome to share your additional thoughts, suggestions, and inputs in our comments section below.

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