Do you know what carbs are? Let’s define the good, the bad, and the ugly about them. Carbohydrates, are organic compounds that consist of carbon, hydrogen and water. They are the body’s most preferred source of energy and help in the metabolism of fat and protein. If your body were a car, good carbs would be the fuel that would make it run the most efficiently.
Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used for energy. Picture a string of pearls, each pearl represents a glucose (sugar) molecule. The body needs only one enzyme to quickly break apart the string (bonds) and release energy. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as candy, table sugar, syrup and soft drinks – these are the bad carbs. Naturally occurring simple carbohydrates are found in milk and fruits, but are not to be confused with the refined sugars found in the foods mentioned above.
Complex carbohydrates are just what they sound like, complicated sugars that have bonds which take longer for the body to break down, thus releasing their energy more slowly. Complex carbohydrates are 10 connected glucose molecules or more that look like tinker toys assembled by a 3-year old with wooden circles attached with colored sticks. It takes a different enzyme to break down each bond. Sources of complex carbohydrates include grains such as rice and wheat, cereals, potatoes, and legumes. These are the good carbs.
Refined carbohydrates are whole grains stripped of the germ and/or bran, leaving a highly digestible and easily preserved starch. Thus, a good carb is turned into a bad carb by removing the fiber, which makes it ugly.
To keep our bodies running the very best, we need 60% of our food intake to be unrefined, complex carbohydrates and naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruit. Said another way, 2/3rds of the food on your plate should be complex carbs.
The ugly carbs also rear their heads when we consume more than our body needs of any food and the excess is stored. It is at times like this that we are tempted to vilify and label all carbs as harmful, but there is wisdom in knowing the truth about the good, the bad and the ugly. We should be seeking in proper proportions the good carbs that help prevent and reduce the risk of killers such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes.