Are all carbohydrates bad? The answer is no. Carbs have a variety of functions in our body – from providing energy and regulating blood glucose. However, there are different types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are known as sugars that come in 2 main forms; complex and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are also known as refined carbohydrates found as refined sugar or refined grains. In refined carbohydrates, fiber and essential nutrients are removed. White flour, for example, is the most common which is in a variety of foods including favorites like white bread, pastries, and pasta. Refined carbohydrates tend to make a large part of the American diet. Hence, there are a few things you should know about refined carbohydrates.
1. They are low in fiber
Whole grains are known to be high in dietary fiber due to their outer layer, Bran. On the other hand, refined carbohydrates tend to be low in fiber due to their construction. Refined carbohydrates have most of their nutrients and fiber removed in the making. Not getting enough fiber in your diet can lead to many health conditions including poor digestion, higher risk for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, weight gain, and poor blood sugar management.
2. They can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes
As mentioned previously, refined carbohydrates have barely any nutrients or fiber. Fiber is necessary to control blood glucose levels. Fiber is not broken down by the body. Therefore, when consuming foods containing fiber, it does not affect blood glucose levels because it is not digested. Nonetheless, refined carbohydrates are digested quickly which leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels soon after consuming them. Over time, high consumption of refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance.
3. Provide empty calories which could lead to weight gain
Refined carbohydrates lack most essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber and therefore they’re empty calories. Without providing essential nutrients, dietary sources of refined carbohydrates can lead to unwanted weight gain. Due to its lower fiber content and therefore digested quickly, refined carbohydrates can lead to overeating. Refined carbohydrates are known to be high on the glycemic index. Foods high on the glycemic index promote short-term fullness due to a lack of nutrients and therefore feeling hungry after just an hour. Foods high on the glycemic index are also known to cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels. The rapid absorption of glucose after meals leads to both hormonal and metabolic changes that promote excessive food intake
4. Increase your risk for diabetes
Managing diabetes can be extremely difficult, and without proper management, it can lead to serious health complications. It is essential to regulate blood glucose levels and thus help our bodies prevent diabetes. Standard recommendations for diabetes prevention are to limit refined carbohydrates in our diets. Refined carbohydrates are known to cause insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
5. May increase your risk of developing heart disease
Heart disease continues to be the number one cause of death, therefore, lowering your cholesterol is essential to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Cholesterol can build up in our arteries causing atherosclerosis and heart disease. Refined carbohydrates are high in simple sugars which are known to raise triglycerides levels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of refined carbohydrates foods in our diet and eating more complex carbohydrates that are rich in nutrients and fiber.
6. Lack of essential nutrients
During the refining process, the bran and germ are removed from the carbohydrate. Both the germ and the bran are known to be the most nutritious parts of whole grains. They provide essential nutrients like B-vitamins, iron, phosphorous, manganese, selenium, and fiber. During the refining process, most nutrients and fiber are removed. Therefore, many companies add synthetic vitamins. Nonetheless, getting those nutrients from natural resources is always a better choice.
7. May lead to digestive disorders and constipation
Ever wonder what you are eating that is causing specific gastrointestinal disorders and constipation? The answer could be what you are not eating. High amounts of refined carbohydrates and their lack of fiber may be the cause. The type of carbohydrate you are consuming can make a difference to your constipation and digestive problems. With the lack of fruits and vegetables we tend to consume daily, the other primary sources of fiber are whole grains bread, rice, and pasta. For that reason, switching from refined carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates can make a difference.
8. May increase your risk for cancer
Research continues on the link between refined carbohydrates and cancer. A research study stated that high consumption of refined carbohydrates could double the chances of prostate cancer risk. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates which are rich in nutrients and vitamins have a lower risk for cancer