7 Carbohydrates Facts You Need to Know

Carb Myths Busted

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When you're following a low carb diet, the subject of carbohydrates -- what they are, what they do in your body -- can seem hard to navigate. This is the last in a series of articles exploring carbohydrates. It sums up seven things for you to remember about carbohydrates.

1) Carbs = Sugar

Except for the carbohydrates, mainly fiber, that aren't broken down into glucose before they get to the colon, all carbs turn into sugar in your body.

Starches, or complex carbohydrates, are simply longer strings of sugar. Some carbohydrates cause a rapid, high rise in blood glucose; others break down over a longer period of time -- carbohydrates that contain more fiber help slow the digestion.

2) Myth: Starches (complex carbohydrates) are broken down slowly in our bodies.

You might think that complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates. But the fact is, the vast majority of the carbs in the grocery store are rapidly digested. This is because the food manufacturers have kindly begun the process for us, by grinding grains into flour, refining grains and sugar, puffing rice and making it into rice cakes, etc. Whole wheat flour is almost as glycemic is white flour (though it is much more nutritious).

3) Best bets: non-starchy vegetables, low sugar fruits, and legumes

Some of the most nutritious sources of carbohydrates are non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

These foods include are rich in phytonutrients, as well as having loads of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Legumes can be a good addition to the reduced-carb diet, because they contribute slowly digested carbohydrate and resistant starch to your diet. 

4) When choosing grains, eat minimally processed whole grains

If you can tolerate more sugar, add whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur, etc.

These minimally processed whole grains are broken down more slowly during digestion than if they were ground into flour. These types of grains also contribute a small amount of resistant starch.

5) Myth: By the time our food reaches your colon, carbs don't matter

There is a whole other digestive process that occurs when fermentable carbohydrates reach your colon.. The friendly bacteria there make substances which contribute greatly to our health.

6) Eat plenty of fiber

Fiber is a very good thing. It helps cleanse your colon, slow absorption of glucose into your bloodstream and contributes to healthy cholesterol levels. Seek out sources of insoluble fiber (the skin of vegetables, berry seeds, etc.) and fermentable fiber (soluble fiber, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides).

7) You may have put extra effort into getting sources of resistant starch

People who are able to eat high-carb diets, and focus on whole, unprocessed foods, get small amounts of resistant starch in most of the carbs they eat.

This becomes an issue for low-carb eaters -- for example, even though potato salad has some resistant starch, it is too "expensive" in terms of rapidly-available sugar for you to indulge in it often. This is why including legumes in your diet is a good idea. You might also want to experiment with cooking with resistant starch, such as this flax meal bread with added resistant starch.

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