Unrefined vs Refined Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are not your enemy. Many low carb diet systems have left dieters confused on this subject. Carbohydrates are an important aspect to a healthy, well rounded diet. They supply the body with much needed quick, energy fuel. However, there are some important differences between refined and unrefined carbohydrates. Read on to learn the differences, so that you can choose the healthiest carbohydrates for your diet.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are sometimes called “white foods”. These include sugar, white bread, white rice, and many pastas, baked goods and cereals. Refining is the process of removing water, fiber and nutrients from natural grains. This helps to concentrate taste and improve shelf life. Unfortunately, these foods are not very healthy for the body. The sugars in refined foods are concentrated and eating them can cause blood sugar levels to spike. This can lead to symptoms of increased appetite, irritability and fatigue. Blood sugar fluctuations can also cause the body to store more excess calories as fat. Eating refined carbohydrates can also lead to nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients needed by the body to utilize the sugars in carbs are lacking in refined carbohydrates, which forces the body to dip into its own reserves.

Unrefined Carbohydrates

Basically, any food that hasn’t been altered from its natural state is considered unrefined. Natural whole grains like wheat, oats and barley have high fiber content and important nutrients. Fiber is important because it slows the absorption of sugar from carbohydrates and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels in the body. Most Americans are consuming a fraction of the fiber they should be getting in their diets. Look for “100 percent whole grain” on the label, when purchasing breads, pastas and other processed foods.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of unrefined carbohydrates. Although fruits are high in simple sugars, they’re an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and most contain a good amount of fiber. Vegetables are wonderful sources of unrefined, complex carbohydrates. Some have such a high fiber content that they are considered “negative calorie” foods. Your body will burn more calories digesting these foods than the amount of calories that they contain. Be sure to incorporate beans, lentils and other legumes into your diet.  They’re a great source of unrefined, complex carbohydrates that’s also high in dietary fiber and protein. Filling up on these high fiber carbohydrates will help you to curb your hunger pangs, while providing much needed nutrition to the body.

The Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index is a useful tool that you can use to determine if a food is likely to spike your blood sugar. Carbohydrates are given a ranking based on their effect on blood glucose levels. A scale of 0 to 100 is used. The foods ranked with the lowest numbers have the least effect on blood sugar. Choosing carbohydrates with a low glycemic index rating will help you to lose weight and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Now that you know the differences between good and bad carbohydrates, you can let go of the fear and use these essential foods to your benefit.


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