When you hear about the effects of carbohydrates on your body, it’s important to note that refined carbohydrates and unrefined carbohydrates work very differently. While cutting carbohydrates from your diet can be a good way to lose weight, it’s important to know the differences between regular, or unrefined, carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates.
Regular carbohydrates are unrefined carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They work through your body slowly, providing energy for several hours. Regular carbohydrates are full of vitamins and minerals, including many B vitamins. Additionally, regular carbohydrates have lots of bran and fiber. Whole grain breads contain the germ, hull and bran of the wheat grain, which is very healthy.
Regular carbohydrates regulate blood sugar levels in the body by slowing the rate at which the body absorbs sugar. In this way, they keep you full longer and keep you energized. This prevents the energy crash you often get from sugary drinks or candy.
Refined carbohydrates have very little in the way of nutrition. After being refined, all that’s really left is starch and empty calories. During the refining process, almost all of the vitamins, minerals, bran and fiber are taken out of the carbohydrates. Although the resulting product lasts longer, it is also very bland in taste and not very healthy. The wheat kernel, which is the base of bread and bread products, has lots of healthy bran and fiber in it. However, white flour derived from the wheat kernel has only 25 percent of the fiber that the wheat kernel has and only 20 percent of the vitamins and minerals. They have more sugar than regular carbohydrates; during the refining process, the sugars in the product are concentrated.
All of the processes that refined carbohydrates go through make them harder to digest. Your body works much harder to digest refined carbohydrates than regular carbohydrates, while retaining none of the health benefits of regular carbs. You may notice that refined carbohydrate products, such as white bread, white rice and white flour, are advertised as being enriched with vitamins. While companies use that as a selling point, it’s actually fairly negative. Refined carbohydrate products have to be enriched with vitamins if they are to have any nutritional value.
Part of having a healthy diet is minimizing your intake of refined carbohydrates while increasing your consumption of regular carbohydrates. To do this, check the label of packaged food before you buy it. If “enriched flour” is listed as an ingredient, you can bet that you’re eating refined carbohydrates. As often as possible, try to eat food in its original state. Instead of eating fruit snacks or drinking fruit juice, eat whole pieces of fruit. Instead of eating white rice or white bread, eat brown rice or barley. Most nutritionists recommend that 40 to 60 percent of your calories come from carbs. By making simple switches in your diet, you can be sure that the carbohydrates you’re taking in are the best ones for your diet and health.