Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough -One of the most controversial nutritional elements are carbohydrates. Diets for decades have either ruled them out, praised them, or come up with complicated ratios we should abide by each day. Carbohydrates are an essential component of our daily nutrition, but of course there are choices left up to us as to what we will be consuming and how much we should have. Most people consume between 40 and 60% of carbohydrates each day as part of their total daily intake of food. They are our main source of energy which is derived from the glucose of these foods. As you know, some carbs are better than others. So let’s take a look at the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates in order to provide some guidance for your choices.
The best initial explanation I found was the following: “There are three types of carbohydrates: starch, sugar and fiber. Starches and sugars provide your body with its main source of energy. They’re all comprised of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, which are organized into single units. Sugars contain just one or two of these units and are “simple,” while starches and fibers have many units of sugar, making them “complex” “ (http://www.fitday.com/fitness-
articles/nutrition/carbs/simple-vs-complex-carbohydrates.html). Let’s start with simple then move onto complex.
Simple carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar molecules. Our bodies digest them very quickly, so they’re an instant source of energy. Some basic examples include table sugar, brown sugar, fruit drinks, soft drinks, candy, jellies or jams, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, and molasses (http://www.nutritionmd.org/nutrition_tips/nutrition_tips_understand_foods/carbs_versus.htm).
Other type would include white products like bread or pasta, baked good made with white flour, and most cereals (http://howtothinkthin.com/instincts2.htm). I would say that 3pm hour is probably the time most folks want that simple carb source.
Complex carbohydrates are the better of the two types. They’re full of fiber and take the body more time to digest, leaving you feeling satiated and fueled for longer periods of time. Blood sugar remains more stable instead of a quick spike from simple carbs for that instant energy boost. They also contain more vitamins and minerals. Examples include green vegetables, whole grain sources from oatmeal, pasta, or breads, potatoes or sweet potatoes, corn, beans, peas, lentils (http://www.nutritionmd.org/nutrition_tips/nutrition_tips_understand_foods/carbs_versus.html).
Apples, oranges, grapefruit, and yogurt are other good sources
On your fitness journey, we want to aim to fuel the body as best as possible. I would classify simple carbohydrates as “sometimes foods”. Unfortunately, they are those quick and easily accessible little snacks that make life convenient. However, having complex carbohydrates really isn’t that “complex”. Shoot 7-11 is starting to sell Quest Bars and they often sell fruit, so no excuses. Be an advocate for your health and make the necessary swaps. Not only will you benefit, but the whole family will when you stock your shelves full of better complex carbohydrates sources. Think about it… if the majority of what we eat are carbohydrates, then let’s make the majority of our choices that much better. One choice and one rep at a time, we are on our way to being the best versions of ourselves.