The Facts About Carbohydrates
What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are important nutrients that supply energy for your body. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates, or carbs, into glucose (blood sugar). Your body uses this sugar for energy for your cells, tissues, and organs. Your body stores extra sugar in your liver and muscles for when it is needed.
Are all carbs the same? No. Carbohydrates are called simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates are digested fairly quickly, so it doesn't take long for sugar to be absorbed into the bloodstream and for the body to receive the energy it needs. After being consumed, complex carbohydrates need to be broken down by the body before they can be used for energy. Digestion happens more slowly than with simple carbs. The benefit of this is that your body will feel full and your energy will last longer.
What types of food are simple carbs? Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products like cheese. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Examples include table sugar, maple syrup, and molasses.
What types of food are complex carbs? Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, pasta, and rice. They also include starchy vegetables (examples: potatoes, green peas, lima beans, beets), and legumes (examples: beans, lentils, peanuts).
What is fiber? Fiber is a complex carb that cannot be broken down. It passes through the body undigested. Fiber is found in many foods from leafy green vegetables to nuts, beans, blueberries, and whole grains. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a diet that's high in fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol and help protect the body against heart disease and some forms of cancer. Consuming fiber also helps keep the digestive system working properly by regularly pushing food through the intestines and preventing constipation.