Q: How do carbohydrates fit into a healthy diet?
A: Carbohydrates often get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight gain. But carbohydrates aren’t all bad. Your body needs carbohydrates to function, but some carbohydrates are better than are others. There are three main types of carbohydrates:
Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. Sugar occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Sugars include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose).
Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
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Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. Fiber occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
You have probably heard the term glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise your blood sugar level. High blood sugar is associated with weight gain. Weight-loss diets based on the glycemic index typically recommend limiting foods that are higher on the glycemic index. Foods with a relatively high glycemic index ranking include potatoes and corn, and less healthy options such as snack foods and desserts that contain refined flours. Many healthy foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products, are naturally lower on the glycemic index.
So for weight control: 1. Limit simple carbs (sugars), and emphasize complex ones with lots of fiber; 2. Choose foods with a lower glycemic index. Fiber also keeps you regular, which is key for overall health.
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