Not all carbs are created equal. There are lots of whole foods that are high in carbs but still incredibly healthy and nutritious.
And there are refined or simple carbs, that have most of their nutrients and fibers removed. Eating refined carbs can lead to many illnesses including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
So what are refined carbs?
There are 2 types of refined carbs:
- Sugars, like high fructose corn syrup and table sugar
- Refined grains: grains that have their nutritious and fibrous part removed. The biggest source is white flour made from refined wheat.
Refined carbs have been stripped off most of their fiber and vitamin content therefore they are considered empty calories. They also absorb quickly in the bloodstream, therefore they have a high glycemic index (GI).
Sugars and refined carbs are a very large part of the total carb intake in many countries.
The main sources of refined carbs are: white pasta, white rice, white flour, white bread, pastries, sodas, snacks, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars.
Because refined carbs are low in fiber and digested quickly they cause major swings in blood sugar levels. Foods with high GI promote short term fullness, lasting for about an hour. Low GI foods promote long term fullness, lasting for 2-3 hours. Blood sugar levels drop after about 1-2 hrs eating refined carbs. This promotes hunger and stimulates cravings. When you crave food, you’re prone to overeating.
Refined carbs can cause inflammation in the body which could be the primary cause of obesity and leptin resistance.
Studies show that a high consumption of refined carbs is linked with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. These are the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Refined carbs also increase blood triglyceride levels which is a risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However not all carb foods are bad. There are many foods that contain healthy carbs because they’re great sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. These include:
- sweet potatoes