What are carbohydrates,? Which carbs are good for you?

carbohydrates, confusion

As a nutritionist, the most common question people ask me is 'what are carbohydrates?' or 'what are carbs?'. Nutrition information can be very confusing but let me try and explain as simply as I can.

All food is classified as one of the three macro nutrients: carbohydrates, protein or fat. Most food is often a combination of these macro nutrients.

Carbohydrates are derived from plants and are composed of the following food groups: grain products, fruits, vegetables and beans.

Simple vs complex

Carbs are classified as 'simple' or 'complex'. All carbs are made up of sugars linked together, the number of sugars in a molecule determines whether the carbohydrate is 'simple' or 'complex'.

Simple carbs. include fruit, vegetables and milk products or in processed foods such as candy, honey, sugar, syrups and soft drinks.

Complex carbs are breads, cereals, starchy vegetables, legumes, rice and pastas.

Depending on the amount of processing or refining of the grain, complex carbs can have either a high fiber content such as twelve grain bread, or low fiber content such as white bread. The more processed and refined our carbohydrates are, the more obese and sicker we become.

White sugar and white flour are time bombs that mess with our health. carbohydrates-blood-sugar-chart Carbohydrates and blood sugar

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose(blood sugar) to be used as the primary source of energy for the body.The key to eating carbohydrates properly is to understand the relationship between blood glucose levels and insulin.

Insulin is a hormone secreted in response to high blood levels and its prime function is to move glucose into our cells.

However, certain foods, such as the time bombs white sugar and white flour, tend to cause over secretion of the hormone insulin. When this happens we experience a 'crash' in blood sugar levels called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Symptoms include fatigue, moodiness, hunger, mental fogginess and yes..cravings for more carbohydrates! In addition, excess glucose is stored as excess fat.

Glycemic Index

You may have heard of the glycemic index or the glycemic diet,it is a tool that measures the speed of entry of glucose(sugar) from a carbohydrate into the blood stream.

The faster the speed of entry, the more insulin is secreted by the pancreas. Excess secretion leads not only to symptoms of hypoglycemia but also to Type 2 diabetes.

The glycemic index categorizes carbohydrates on a scale of 0-100 with sugar being 100. Carbohydrates are divided into three categories low, medium, high.

Healthy eating on the high blood pressure diet focuses on those foods that are low on the glycemic index, have the slowest rate of entry into the blood stream and have the lowest insulin response.

It is important to note that fiber, protein and fat all act as brakes to slow the entry of glucose from a food into the blood stream. This is why all recipes provided on this site are perfectly balanced to be 50% low glycemic carbohydrates, 30% lean protein and 20% healthy fat. Balance = health.

carbohydrates, good carbs Good Carbs

Maximize your good carb intake by eating lots of the following:

vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, eggplant, zucchini.

fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, melon, papaya, cherries.

Beans such as kidney beans, black beans, navy beans,chick peas.

Whole grains or starches in MODERATION such as slow cooking oatmeal, kamut, spelt pasta, wholegrain bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes and squash.

For excellent information on the right carbs to eat, check out:

Do Carbs Make You Fat?

Bad Carbs

Avoid the following carbs:

Refined and processed grains such as white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, pop, candy, cakes, cookies and other baked goods such as muffins.


Be careful of buying whole wheat products such as bread or pasta, these are often refined flour items that have had black strap molasses added to make them look brown. Is Whole Wheat Bread Fattening??

Always check the label for 100% whole grain content, remember that whole grain products should feel and look denser and take a while to chew!

Feel free to print out the list of freedom foods which our clients use to snack on and bulk up their meals. Freedom foods are carbohydrates that are high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Put the list on your fridge and use the foods freely to have fun with.

3 Simple Healthy Meals You can Make Right Now!

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