Are carbohydrates healthy?
The body’s primary fuel comes from carbohydrates, which are often split into two categories for the purposes of identifying those carbohydrate foods that are nutritionally superior – namely, simple and complex.
Although sometimes a little misleading (as other factors may be relevant), this broad distinction is generally useful in determining whether a carbohydrate food is healthy or not.
Simple carbohydrates (such as those found in sugar, sweets and most refined foods, such as white bread, white rice etc) are generally considered to be unhealthy because of the fact that they are ‘fast-releasing’. In other words, they release their fuel very quickly, which leads to a spurt of energy in the short-term, but is then followed by a sudden drop in energy as the body fights to stabilise blood sugar levels. They are therefore best avoided.
In contrast, complex and simpler carbohydrates (present in natural whole foods, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit) are ‘slow-releasing’. In other words, they provide more sustained energy, which is gradually released and therefore helps to keep blood sugar (and energy) levels stable. This is why they are generally considered to be preferable.
Nutrients in carbohydrate foods
Aside from the fast-releasing / slow-releasing issue, the value of carbohydrate foods can also be measured in terms of their relative nutrient content. For example, sugar and other refined carbohydrates tend to be acid-forming and devoid of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, while (because of their natural origins) complex carbohydrates and natural sources of simpler carbohydrates tend to be alkalising, and contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, dietary fibre, Omega oils and phyto-nutrients.
Therefore, by opting for these ‘healthy’ carbohydrates, you not only provide the body with what it needs to use them properly, you also support the digestive system, general immunity, health and well-being. By comparison, a diet packed with simple, refined and fast-releasing carbohydrates can, over time, give rise to a host of complex symptoms and health problems.
It is therefore suggested that slow-releasing carbohydrates (from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses) should make up at least two-thirds of the daily diet (or around 65% of your total calorie intake).