Carbohydrates have earned themselves a bad rap. Over time, a food that provides us with energy has been vilified as the source of obesity. People trying to lose weight say they're "going off carbs" because they know they convert into sugar (the real evil). However, if you explore various examples of complex carbohydrates, you'll quickly see that not all carbs are bad.
Why do we often hear about "good" and "bad" carbs? Or complex and simple carbs? Well, simple carbohydrates ("bad") have been stripped of all their nutrients, including fiber. They have a high glycemic index which causes a major spike in blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates ("good") are fiber-rich and lower in sugar. This aids in weight loss and increased levels of energy.
Let's take a look at examples of complex carbohydrates and sort through the good and the bad.
A complex carbohydrate food list includes items that aren't considered to be "bad." Peas, beans, and whole grains, for example, are complex carbs. To be "complex" simply means they consist of sugar molecules strung together in long, complex molecule chains.
Here are some complex carbs you're likely to encounter:
We don't often think of milk or milk products as "carbs," but they can contain carbohydrates. Here are a couple of healthy options:
These snacks tend to be classified as "high carb." However, this is an instance of "good carbs" where you'll find they're filling, low in sugar, and provide energy:
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are not only filling but also nutrient-packed. Here are some of the healthiest options:
Although certain fruits have high levels of natural sugar, they're still a healthier substitute than some of our favorite carb-ridden snacks. Here's a sampling of fruits and vegetables that contain complex carbohydrates:
Complex carbohydrates provide the body some of what it needs to operate at peak performance. Here are a few reasons to choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbs keep the body fueled for an extended period of time. Reaching for simple carbohydrates may be a quick way to fill your stomach or to fulfill a craving, but the simple sugars are quickly digested, meaning hunger will return sooner.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest. This makes them key to fulfilling hunger as well as providing a longer lasting source of energy. Because complex carbohydrates often have lots of fiber, this bulks up stool, allowing it to move smoothly through the digestive tract. When this occurs, less bloating and gas exist, constipation can be lessened, and more toxins are removed from the body.
Yes, the right carbs can actually help you lose weight, not gain weight. Eating complex carbohydrates helps you feel full for a longer period of time. As a result, cravings are lessened and the need to reach for unhealthy snacks between planned meals is diminished.
Instead of reaching for a simple carbohydrate, snacking on a complex carb is an easy way to stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals.
A diet rich in vegetables has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart attacks by lowering blood pressure. Complex carbs can keep your heart healthy. Whole grains and legumes also protect the heart by lowering cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk.
In order to achieve the benefits of eating more complex carbohydrates, it might be necessary to make some changes to your diet. Here are some examples of easy substitutions:
Instead of white bread and pasta, switch to whole grain bread and pasta. If the switch is intimidating at first, try mixing half whole grain and half white when making pasta.
Other alternatives to pasta are spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles (or zoodles).
Instead of munching on potato chips, try nuts and raw vegetables.
Instead of white rice, consider brown rice, quinoa, or beans as a base for dishes.
Instead of potatoes, try some mashed or roasted cauliflower.
Instead of instant oatmeal in the morning, try steel-cut oats or rolled oats. Instant oatmeal tends to come with added sugar, while steel-cut or rolled oats are more natural.
Here's Harvard Health's take on how to consume carbs. They make the case that a low-carb diet isn't necessarily a smart choice. With a reduction in carbs, we have to replace our calorie intake some other way and a high-fat diet isn't necessarily the answer.
In the end, complex carbohydrates are the opposite of fattening. Rather, they're filling, providing our bodies with nutrients it will appreciate. The ability to feel fuller longer will help prevent an unnecessary consumption of sugar, which can be harmful to our blood sugar levels. This makes complex carbs a win-win for everyone who chooses spaghetti squash over a box of macaroni at night.
That was quite a bit of complex chatter. Let's have some fun. Enjoy these examples of food idioms and see if you'll go bananas over any of these catchphrases!