Understanding Carbohydrates and Sugar
Carbohydrates are a key fuel source for our bodies. When we eat a food containing carbohydrates our digestive system breaks it down into sugar which then enters the bloodstream. Carbohydrates can be broken down into two broad categories: simple or complex. This difference describes the structure of the sugar molecules in the food, and often determines how rapidly a food can be converted into energy.
Simple carbohydrates occur naturally in many foods, including fruits, vegetables and milk. However, simple carbs also include the added sugars we find in sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. These sugars add additional calories to the diet and may contribute to insulin resistance and heart disease. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day, which is almost three times the daily limit suggested by the American Heart Association.
Complex carbohydrates have a more complex chemical structure with three or more sugar molecules linked together. Complex carbohydrate foods often contain fiber and can take longer to digest. However, some complex carbs, like white bread and white rice, contain mostly starch and offer little fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not completely digested by the body. While most carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, fiber is not broken down, and therefore passes through the body undigested. This slow-moving digestion process helps you feel fuller for longer, which is why food sources of dietary fiber are helpful for weight management. High fiber foods include oatmeal, nuts, beans, and fruits with edible skin like apples and pears.
Carbohydrates are necessary for energy and especially for brain function, however choosing complex carbohydrates and fiber containing foods positively impact overall health and aids in glucose control for those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. If you want to learn more about managing type 2 diabetes Employee Wellness’s Diabetes Bootcamp kicks off on April 20th, click below to grab your spot in the 7-week program.
– Gina Gonnella, M.Ed.
Check out our previous edition of Food for Thought!
It is well publicized that the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity each week. However, most adults are spending about 10 waking hours each day in a sedentary state, which means even when they are awake – they are barely moving. Learn more about the ways to get moving and healthy along with proper nutrition on our previous edition of Food for Thought!
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