Carbohydrates can be a fantastic addition to a balanced diet with one caveat – knowing which type of carbohydrate to consume at specific times can make all the difference in achieving your health goals.
Carbohydrates have always been a topic of debate in diet and fitness communities. Some people (especially those on low-carb diets like Atkins or Ketogenic) believe that carbohydrates should make up a very small portion of your daily calories. For others, carbohydrates are considered to be an important part of a balanced diet, providing energy for workouts and day-to-day life.
Carbs, or carbohydrates, are macronutrients made up of sugars, starches, and fiber. By providing a rich source of glucose, carbohydrates give us the energy we need to get through the day. While not all foods contain carbohydrates, many do! However, not all carbohydrates are the same, and certain types can have vastly different effects on your body.
There are two main types of carbs: fast digesting and slow digesting. You might have also heard them referred to as simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. As the name suggests, fast digesting carbohydrates are digested and absorbed much more quickly than slow digesting carbohydrates. The speed of digestion affects the rate at which energy is delivered to your body, as well as how much your blood sugar levels are affected.
If you’ve ever had a sugary energy drink, you’ll recall how quickly you felt that burst of energy –that’s fast digesting carbohydrates in action. Slow digesting carbohydrates, on the other hand, give you a steady supply of glucose over a longer period of time. This avoids the roller coaster cycle of energy peaks and troughs that may come with fast digesting carbohydrates. Fast carbohydrates are generally less nutritious than slow digesting carbohydrates, but can be very useful in situations like pre- and post-workout when a quick boost is exactly what you need to refuel your muscles.
Turn to slow digesting carbohydrates throughout the day to maintain constant energy. Slow digesting carbohydrates keep your blood sugar levels even, while still supplying energy. Having slow digesting carbs can also help manage hunger and cravings, which is important for any weight loss program. Additionally, slow digesting carbohydrates are generally higher in fiber and protein than fast digesting carbohydrates, making them an essential part of any diet. A diet that includes more slow digesting carbohydrates than fast digesting can be important for those looking to lose weight, maintain emotional balance, and manage blood sugar levels.
There are many different types of slow digesting carbohydrates that you can begin to incorporate into your diet. Some slow digesting vegetables include peas, carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and red peppers. Grain choices to consider include oat bran, rolled oats, brown rice, and wheat tortillas. If you’re lactose friendly, try skim milk and fat-free, sugar-free yogurt for a dose of slow burning carbohydrates. For those of you who are plant-based, soy milk is a great option as well!