What Are Carbohydrates Made of: Usage, Consumption and Benefits

One of the biggest misconceptions in the health and wellness world is that carbohydrates are bad, or unnecessary for optimal health. 

This is simply not true, and in fact, you absolutely do need to incorporate healthy carbs into your diet long-term in order to have a well-balanced diet that can support your body’s needs each day. 

So, what exactly are carbohydrates, or carbs, and why are they so important? Let’s get into it. 

What Are Carbohydrates?

The first thing we should mention is that carbs come in a variety of forms, including sugars, starches, and fibers. Thus, they are found in plenty of the foods we eat on a daily basis. 

Essentially, carbohydrates provide our bodies with glucose, which is then converted into energy so that our cellular activities are supported. In other words, carbohydrates provide us with the source of fuel that supports all of our bodily functions. 

That being said, not all carbohydrates were made equal. There are definitely good carbs and bad carbs, but then again, nothing is bad in moderation… right?

“Good” Carbs

“Good” carbohydrates are the healthier sources of carbs. These include unprocessed, or minimally processed, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. All of these foods are considered the healthiest carbohydrates because they contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that promote better health overall. 

“Good carbohydrates” may also be referred to as complex carbohydrates, which means they take longer to be broken down by the body.

”Bad” Carbs

“Bad” carbohydrates are those that contain very easily digestible carbohydrates, thus making them potential contributors to unwanted weight gain, promotion of diabetes and heart disease, and interference with weight loss. 

“Bad” carbs are simply those that are unhealthier due to lack of nutrients and empty calories, and they include things like white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed foods with tons of refined and added sugar. 

“Bad” carbs are also known as simple carbs because they have lower fiber content and are broken down by the body more easily (where “easily” is not necessarily a good thing in this case!). 

Why is the Fiber in Carbs So Important?

Fiber is found most copiously in foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Simply put, fiber keeps your bowels moving, which promotes a healthier digestive system. This in turn helps work to support a healthy weight, healthy heart, and health overall.

There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can even help lower cholesterol. It is found in foods such as nuts, seeds, dry beans, oatmeal, and some vegetables like corn, peas, and carrots. 

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but rather it helps our bodies move waste through the digestive system, thus helping prevent blood clots like those that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Insoluble fiber can be found in a variety of common foods, including brown rice, whole grain cereals, and most fruits and vegetables. 

Will a Low Carb Diet Help Promote Weight Loss?

Simply put, eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates can help jumpstart weight loss, but this kind of diet is not sustainable in the long run. Additionally, if care is not taken, low carb diets may end up consisting of mostly animal fats or unhealthy oils, which can have negative long-term effects. 

When discussing whether or not carbs themselves contribute to unwanted weight gain, we think it is important to remind you that eating too much of anything will likely have an adverse effect. 

This is why we say everything is generally good in moderation. That being said, when it comes to carbs, it is important to pay mind to which kinds of carbs you are consuming the most. 

If the majority of your carb intake is coming from sweets and snacks, you will likely see unwanted effects like high blood sugar levels, whereas focusing on whole foods and “good” carbs is a great way to support your digestive health. 

Our brains rely on carbohydrates, too, which means that cutting out carbs completely will do more than just affect your body on the outside. 

Cutting out carbs would mean cutting out plenty of foods that have other, highly important nutritional benefits. The best sources of healthy carbs are also sources of other important nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Thus, one of the best ways to approach carbs in your diet is to incorporate them through healthy foods like starches, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, if you struggle to eat carbs consistently and are looking for a creative way to fuel your body, certain products can help you move towards a better balance of carbs in your everyday. 

Orgain’s Organic Nutrition Shake or Organic Meal Powder contain a great balance of carbohydrates from sources like bananas, carrots, quinoa, and lentils while also including protein and healthy fats. 

Plus, if fruits and vegetables just are not your thing, you can opt for supplementation like our Organic Superfoods Powder. It contains plenty of natural goodness from sprouts, veggies, and berries as well as superfoods like acai and kale, and the final product is 11 grams of energy-promoting carbs. 

Summary 

Carbohydrates are arguably one of the most highly debated aspects of healthy eating. Some say to ditch them, and some say to indulge. The fact of the matter is that carbohydrates really are an important part of our diets, and what matters most is that we are getting them from healthful, nutrient-dense sources. 

Good carbs include whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and starches, as well as whole grains. On the other hand, so-called bad carbs include white bread, pastries, sweets, and common junk food like chips and processed snacks. 

Good carbs take longer to be broken down by your body, meaning they keep you feeling full for a longer period of time as opposed to fast-digesting “bad” carbs. Good carbs are also fantastic because of their fiber content, which comes in two forms, one of which helps move waste through your body while the other keeps you feeling full. Fiber also makes for a healthy digestive system, which has plenty of health benefits from supporting the gut-brain connection to helping you feel more energized. 

Even if carb-filled foods are not your cup of tea, there are still ways to include this important nutrient in your diet. 

Overall, it is most important to look beyond the misconceptions and focus on all of the good that a well-balanced diet can provide for you. Focusing on consuming complex carbs can help keep you from feeling like a sluggish snack-fiend, and making sure to consume a variety of different healthy carbs will keep you from getting bored of your everyday meals. 

Making sure you get the bulk of your carbs from healthier sources can lead to more sustained energy levels, but it is also okay to indulge in simple carbs as long as you do so in moderation. 

Let’s be real, we all love a sugary sweet snack once in a while -- it’s the once in a while that’s important to pay attention to!

 

Sources:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/good-carbs-bad-carbs#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6

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