All About Carbohydrates
The relationship between carbohydrates and people with diabetes can be confusing. Let’s take a look at what carbohydrates are and how to fit them into a delicious, nutritious eating plan. All food is made up of a combination of three nutrients. Carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates (carbs) are an important source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and in many cases, fiber, all of which support good health. They are the preferred energy source for the brain. However, carbs are also the nutrient that affects blood glucose the most. Given all of the benefits of carbohydrates, we don’t want to cut them out of our diet altogether, but we do want to be sure to choose the healthiest carbs in the right amount. Carbohydrates are made up of three components: starch, fiber, and sugar. Starch and fiber are complex carbs, while sugar is a simple carb. Between the two, complex carbs are the clear winner.
Complex carbs are typically more nutrient-dense than simple carbs. They take longer to digest, and this gradual digestion process results in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps maintain stable blood glucose levels and provides fuel for physical activities. Additionally, complex carbs are often rich in fiber, which aids in digestion, promotes satiety, and can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Good sources of starch and fiber include:
- whole fruits,
- starchy vegetables such as corn and sweet potato,
- legumes such as lentils, black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans
- whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or barley
- whole grain breads and crackers.
Simple carbs are quickly digested and absorbed and are often responsible for quick spikes in blood sugars after meals or snacks. Simple carbs are found in added sugars such as table sugar, candy, sweets, and sodas. These foods have little nutritional value. On the other hand, fruits and milk are also considered simple carbs but contain important vitamins and minerals and in the case of milk, protein as well. Choosing the right carbs can take time and practice. With a little bit of information and a keen eye for nutrition labels, you can start making healthier choices to energize your body, fuel your brain, and protect yourself from long-term complications.