Carbohydrates can be classified into many types. The popular classifications are:
- Simple and complex carbohydrates
- Refined and natural carbohydrates
- High-glycemic and low-glycemic carbohydrates
- Starchy and fibrous carbohydrates
Let’s begin by discussing simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates can be made of a single sugar molecule or a combination of two sugar molecules.
Single sugar molecule are known as monosaccharides.
Ex: Fructose (Fruit sugar),
Glucose (Blood sugar and pharmaceutical grade glucose)
Two single sugar molecules linked together are known as disaccharides
Ex: Sucrose (Table sugar) = Fructose + Glucose,
Lactose (Sugar in Milk content) = Galactose + Glucose,
Maltose (Malt sugar) = Glucose + Glucose
Simple carbohydrates are dangerous since they’re immediately absorbed by the body due to their simple structure. This causes a peak in insulin levels and all the negative effects associated with it as depicted in the last section.
So you need to avoid simple sugar as much as possible or consume them in very limited quantities.
But not all simple carbohydrates are bad. Simple carbohydrates that occur in nature (for example fructose in fruits) can be good for your health when taken in moderation.
Simple carbohydrates available in their refined form are often bad for the health. Examples of simple refined carbohydrates include table sugar and white flour products.
All the processed and refined sugars and bakery items contain simple carbohydrates.
If you want to maximum fat loss then you need to cut down all the simple sugars, even the natural simple carbohydrates. This is practiced by top body builders and they have great success using this method.
But unless you are aiming to compete in some form of professional sport, there is no point in cutting down all the natural simple carbohydrates. This does not mean that you indulge in them, but it definitely gives you the chance to enjoy the taste of natural food to some extent.
If you are not allergic to milk protein then you can include low fat dairy products(1-2%) in your diet. Many athletes and trainers have lactose intolerance and as a result they cannot enjoy milk products because it makes them suffer from gas, bloating, water retention, abdominal cramps and diarrhea etc. In people with minor lactose intolerance, intake of milk and dairy products causes a bloated and puffy appearance.
If you can tolerate milk proteins then you can include them into your diet. This will add taste and variety to your diets and remove monotonous and boring menus.
You need to be smart enough not to exceed your daily planned intake of calories and ensure that your body gets a steady supply of protein every three hours. If you are following these two rules then you can conveniently include a dash of simple natural carbohydrates in your diet.
Fruit sugars are simple natural carbohydrates. One of the main advantages of including fruits in your diet is the increased intake of fiber. Fiber is very important for your digestive metabolism. Absence of fiber in your diet can lead to constipation and trouble passing stools.
Meat products, eggs and protein shakes contains almost zero fiber content. This can be dangerous for your digestive system in the long run… so you need to include fruits and especially vegetables in your diet.
The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25 grams. To have this need met… it is essential that you include fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Even though fruits provide a source of dietary fiber, it is not wise to consume a large amount of fruits, since simple sugars can upset your overall metabolism.
It is recommended that you consume fruits in moderation and include other sources of complex carbohydrates to boost your fiber intake. Good sources of fibrous carbohydrates include green vegetables such as green peas, asparagus, broccoli etc. and complex starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, oatmeal and yams.
Dietary fiber not only improves your digestion… it also holds the carbohydrates together for a long time and provides a consistent supply of energy.
Complex Carbohydrates (polysacccharides):
Complex carbohydrates are formed when hundreds and thousands of sugar molecules are bonded together in complex chains.
Due to their complex chemical nature, the body needs more time to break these bonds. As a result, the thermic effect of complex carbohydrates is higher than simple carbohydrates, so a higher portion of energy from the food is utilized to break down the foods and the energy is liberated on a steady basis unlike that seen in simple carbohydrates where there is a single burst of energy.
There are two types of complex carbohydrates:
1) Starchy Complex Carbohydrates (starches)
Starchy carbohydrates are found in potatoes, cereals, bread, grains, bread, pasta, rice, oats, wheat and beans. As the name implies the energy in is stored in the form starch in these food items. The body absorbs all the energy in starches, therefore the starchy carbohydrates are considered more calorie dense than fibrous carbohydrates.
2) Fibrous Complex Carbohydrates (Fiber)
The importance of Fibrous carbohydrates (green vegetables) cannot be over emphasized. There are many advantages of consuming a fiber rich diet, these include:
Insolubility: Fibers cannot be digested by the digestive system. As a result they pass through the gut unabsorbed. this reduces the number of calories absorbed from the food.
Fiber retains water and adds bulk to the intestinal contents, promotes healthy bowl movements, and keeps the digestive tract healthy and well conditioned.
Most of the fibrous foods are low calorie foods… which means that you can eat a lot and still you wont exceed your calorie restrictions.
For example 500 grams of broccoli contains a mere 165 calories whereas 500 grams of lean chicken contains 570 calories and 100 grams of lays potato chips contains 576 calories.
As you can see from the above example fibrous carbohydrates have a very low calorie density when compared to lean meat or a bag of chips. This can be very helpful… especially when you are trying to lose fat and gain muscle.
Some fibrous vegetables such as cucumber have very few calories (500 grams of cucumber contains a mere 60 calories). If you consider the thermic energy spent on digesting these vegetables their calorie content becomes almost negligible. In fact they may even be negative calories make them the essential players in a fat loss program.
The drawback of fibrous carbohydrates is that they don’t contain much proteins. So you can’t have a diet based only on carbohydrates. But you can always maintain a healthy intake of complex carbohydrates to reap the high benefits it has to offer.
|Starchy carbohydrates||Fibrous carbohydrates||Fruit rich in dietary fiber|
|Green PeasCarrot fresh, |
White Sweet Corn, raw
Whole grain bread
Whole grain cereal
Whole grain pasta
Other whole grains
Complex carbohydrates take longer to get digested and they prevent sudden spikes and falls in blood sugar. The fibers present in complex carbohydrates prevent rapid breakdown of carbohydrates, and thereby help in a stable blood glucose level which in turn ensures a steady insulin level.
Vegetables come in very handy whenever you are trying to restrict your diet, simply because you can eat a lot of them and fill your stomach but they wont add up too many calories.
For example 500 grams of mushrooms contains 141 calories, 11 grams of proteins and 11 grams of dietary fiber whereas a regular size snicker bar (57grams) contains 271 calories, 4.3 grams of protein and 1.3 grams of dietary fiber.
This literally goes to show that you can eat 10 times as much vegetable, and still the number of calories would be far less, and the food would have more nutrients when compared to a quick snack bar.
Experts recommend that 2/3 or more of all your carbohydrates need to be complex carbohydrates, while 1/3 or less can be simple carbohydrates.