The majority of the most popular books for weight loss don’t seem to bother that much to fully explain the difference between simple carbs vs complex carbs, which leaves a lot of people clueless and frustrated because of the lack of results. Carbs represent of one of the three macro-nutrients, the other two being protein and fat, which provide calories (energy) to our bodies and are categorized into two main groups, simple and complex, depending on their molecular structure.
Simple carbs vs complex carbs – here’s what you need to know
Both simple and complex carbs provide 4 calories per gram and they are both absorbed in the form of glucose, a blood sugar which can be used as an energy source for our bodies for basic sustenance or work.
You might ask what impact simple and complex carbs have on weight loss or even gain. Many nutrition experts have said that the wrong usage of carbs can have a very negative impact on weight management. You’d also be right to deduce that carbs are the main reason you’re fat, but for entirely different reasons. Many diet experts are firm in their belief that calories coming from complex carbohydrates provide the bulk of the average person’s diet, despite the bad publicity it gets from the media.
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Everything you need to know about carbs
The most common definition of carbohydrates is chemical compounds which act as the main biological means of storing and consuming energy, the other two compounds being protein and fat. To put this in the simplest terms, it basically means that carbs are naturally occurring sugars which the body transforms into usable energy. They are the perfect source of energy for the body. Simple carbs include naturally occurring sugars like lactose and fructose, plus refined sugars such as sucrose.
Simple carbs are easily transformed into glucose and enter the bloodstream pretty quickly after ingesting them. Potatoes, various grains, and foods made from grains are the main sources of complex carbs. In addition to the fact that they are the main suppliers of energy, foods that have carbs in them are also high in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals.
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All carbohydrates are comprised of three basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The complex type usually has more fiber in them and have a more complex chemical structure which makes their digestion process longer. In general, we need a higher quantity of complex than simple carbs in our diet.
There is one thing that all carbs have in common and that’s they are made up of one of three monosaccharides, ‘mono’ meaning one and ‘saccharide’ meaning sugar:
1.Glucose, whose molecular structure is comprised of 6 carbon, 12 hydrogen, and 6 oxygen atoms.
2.Fructose, which has an identical molecular structure as glucose, but is shaped differently. Once it enters the bloodstream, fructose is delivered to the liver, where it’s broken down and transformed into a glucose molecule.
3.Galactose, which also has the exact same molecular structure as glucose, but it’s only found in milk.
Disaccharides are made up of two simple sugar molecules bonded together. There are three types of disaccharides:
Sucrose, made up of fructose and glucose.
Lactose, made up of galactose and glucose.
Maltose, made up of glucose and glucose.
All carbs which have a larger molecular structure than a disaccharide, but smaller than six monosaccharides, are known as oligosaccharides. Polysaccharides belong to the starches group.
The majority of foods produced in the US have a tendency to be filled with simple carbs. During processing, they lose all of the fiber, and in accordance with our obsession for fat-free foods, they are laden with high fructose corn syrup, making them extremely sweet and unable to spoil. They have a high glycemic index, which is the measure of the speed a specific carb enters the bloodstream with an arbitrary standard as the reference point. You can hear a lot of heated debates about the perfect diet involving carbs.
One group pushes carb consumption as the means to weight loss, while the other opposes this and claims that carbs are the main reasons that Americans face an obesity epidemic. Some assert that some carbohydrates are “good” and some are “bad” and there’s a clear distinction between the two. And they aren’t entirely wrong.
You might wonder what “bad carbs” are. Think cakes, cookies, crackers, white rice, white bread, potatoes. They are the perfect examples and because they are rapidly digested, they won’t stay inside for long, and you’ll soon feel hungry again. On the other hand, the “good carbs” are digested and absorbed slowly, making you feel full for longer periods of time. The latter type is exceptionally healthy for diabetes patients because they can help them maintain steady blood sugar levels.
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Carbs have gotten a lot of bad rap among the general population, especially people who have been desperately trying to lose weight for years. But, the fact is that this nutrient is essential to our health and wellbeing. All carbs, fiber excluded, are transformed into blood sugar, glucose whose main function is to provide energy to our bodies. Glucose also possesses some secondary functions like:
1. Sparing of protein by preventing it from being used as a source of energy, thus leaving it available for the creation of body tissue and the proper functioning of essential body processes.
2. Fat metabolism, i.e. carbs help you burn fat.
3. Making foods sweeter and adding flavor by improving the foods’ palatability.
If you’ve been interested in weight loss science, chances are you’ve already heard of the Atkins or the South Beach diet. Many snack food producers are developing low-carb versions of their products, which are marketed as having half the amount of carbs and calories of the regular beverage, but still with the same great taste.
A possible connection between breast cancer and carb consumption
It is certain that a diet high in complex carbs like fresh fruits, legumes, vegetables and whole grains doesn’t cause breast cancer. The mainstream media, by combining highly refined foods, such as sugars and processed flours, and natural carbs, such as vegetables, starches, and fruits together, is creating false alarms when they cover some new study.