Unrefined, natural simple carbohydrates are man’s best friend when it comes to digestion, nutrients, and taste. They’re easy to eat, taste delicious, and your digestive system can break them down quickly. For a quick source of energy, nothing beats simple carbohydrates.
However, the bad news is that refined simple carbs, white bread and cookies, are bad for you. Why is that? Well, when you eat a lot of simple carbs, you flood your body with a lot of glucose (blood sugar). Too much blood sugar causes your body to produce insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels—but often by too much. This excessively low blood sugar level can result in the feeling of “sugar crashing”, which makes you feel you need to eat more carbs. It’s a vicious cycle that only gets worse every time you indulge.
Over time, your body develops a resistance to the insulin, so it takes more insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels. Eventually, this could result in Type 2 Diabetes, a very serious metabolic disorder.
The worst part about simple carbs is that they tend to be the tastiest foods. Donuts, cookies, cakes, bread, and ice cream are just a few of the simple carbs available. But, no matter how tasty they are, they’re not good for your health—for the reasons mentioned above.
Check out the table below, and you’ll see there are two types of simple carbs:
[table id=6 /]
On the right side, you have all the refined sugar carbs: the pastries, the baked goods, and the sweet treats. On the left side, you have the natural ones, the fruits. You can guess which of the two is the healthier option, but do you know why?
One word: fiber. Well, it’s actually more like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!
Refined carbohydrates like cookies, donuts, and even white bread contain added sugars and fats that will stifle your goal to eat healthy food and lose weight. In addition, refined carbs may contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, additional fat, and processed sugars. Eating refined carbs like a cookie in the morning will neither give you the energy nor give you the nutrition to maintain a balanced body.
On the other hand, while fruits contain sugar, they also contain other nutrients that slow down the absorption rate of that sugar. These are known as complex carbohydrates, and they are the healthier sort of carbs. These foods contain the vitamins and minerals necessary to efficiently convert into slow-releasing energy. Though refined carbohydrates are broken down into the bloodstream quickly, the fiber-rich carbs found in fruit are broken down more slowly, and thus prevent the sugar rush and crash.
For those times you do need a sweet hit, natural, simple carbohydrates such as fruit are your best bet. The fiber will balance out the sugar content and makes that energy hit a little more slow-releasing and sustainable than a refined carb such as a cookie or chocolate bar.
Fruits are also a great source of vitamins that protect your body against disease, so when you satisfy that sweet craving by reaching for a banana or handful of berries, you are also doing yourself some good. The more colorful the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains.
However, the only healthy way to deal with refined simple carbohydrates are to keep them as an occasional treat. Anything with added sugar, or made from refined (white) flour is likely to lack the fiber to balance out the sugar, and has little nutritional value to make it worthwhile.