Understanding Carbohydrates - More Complex Than You Think

Introduction

Raclette dish
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You may think you know all you need to know about carbohydrates. There are the simple ones, which are digested quickly, and the complex ones, which are digested more slowly. Carbs give us energy, and sometimes raise our blood sugar too much. End of story. Right? Wrong! It turns out that there is much more to carbs than we’ve known until recently. In fact, one of the hottest areas of nutritional research has to do with the hows and wheres of carbohydrate digestion.

For example, did you know:

  • Many starches (“complex” carbohydrates) are digested more rapidly than some sugars (“simple” carbohydrates). In fact, the very term “complex carbohydrates” may be rapidly becoming obsolete, at least as it has been traditionally defined.
  • Some starches aren’t digested in the small intestine, but go on to be broken down in the colon, where they may play a vital role in the health of the colon as well as the rest of the body.
  • Some of the fibers and starches which ferment in the colon and produce an important type of fat which is difficult for the body to obtain in any other way.

In this six-part series, we will explore what is known about carbohydrates and what it means to you and your health. I’ll tell you what is being discovered in the emerging areas of fermentable fiber and resistant starch, and how the type of starch in a food is linked to its glycemic index.

    Go To Part One

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