What are Simple Carbohydrates?
With a lot of hype about low-carb and zero-carb diets, let us know what carbohydrates actually are!
Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients in the body. A major chunk of calories come from carbohydrates in our daily diet. Especially the Indian diet is very rich in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be a little confusing, as they come in two varieties – simple and complex – which vary substantially in the way they are digested and their nutrient content. While simple carbohydrates, usually get a bad reputation, they can provide important benefits if incorporated correctly into a healthy diet. Before getting into what is good and what is not, let us know about what exactly are “simple” carbohydrates.
As far as chemical structure is concerned, simple carbs are small molecules consisting of one monosaccharide or two of them linked together. Anything bigger than that comes in the category of complex carbohydrates.
Monosaccharide is just a fancy scientific word for a single sugar. Glucose is a monosaccharide and it is a very important sugar because it is the only type of sugar your brain uses as fuel everyday. Other monosaccharides include fructose, found in fruits and galactose found in milk. None of these are bad for you. Similarly, lactose, maltose and sucrose are disaccharides which are required by your body in appropriate amounts.
How do simple carbs behave in the body?
They are fairly easy for your body to digest. Most of the simple carbohydrate digestion occurs in the small intestine. Enzymes break down the sugar into simple molecules that can enter your blood stream. Any sugar your body does not use as fuel is converted to fat and stored in the adipose tissue within your body.
Are all simple carbohydrates bad for you?
No, they are not bad molecules. Your body requires them in the correct small amounts. In fact they are the only source of energy for your brain! But, anything in excess can become a poison, so the problem is that foods high in simple sugars have a lot of calories, and too much sugar is not good for you.
Fruits and vegetables contain fructose but they are also nutrient dense and contain fiber which helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of sugar. Fruit juices (if strained) do not contain fiber, and the simple carbohydrates present in it can be absorbed quickly thereby leading to quick rise in the blood sugar and a consequent weight gain. Because of which, it is always better to eat the whole fruit rather than drinking a strained fruit juice. If your juice is not strained, it is good healthy drink.
Somebody who is lactose-intolerant cannot digest lactose (milk sugar). People with this condition must avoid milk and milk products or use supplemental enzymes called lactase to help them digest milk sugar.
How to identify simple carbs on labels?
A lot of processed foods contain simple carbs. They are foods which are high in calories and not very nutritious. If you plan to reduce on your simple carbohydrate intake, familiarize yourself with some of the most common forms of simple carbohydrates to ensure smart and informed choices when planning your next meal, : Sucrose, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, malt sugar, honey, syrup. White breads, Maida and Soft drinks are all types of simple carbohydrates – all these are different forms of simple carbohydrates and should be restricted.
We need carbohydrates for our body’s health, but the right quantity and quality of carbohydrates is very important. A diet that is low or deficient in this critical nutrient is truly not balanced, and is in need of correction to best support overall health.
Following a well-balanced diet and doing regular physical activity with a good sound sleep is more likely to lead to a good health and an appropriate body weight than eliminating a particular nutrient from the diet.