When we make the decision to finally eat healthy, there are a few common rules we all know to abide by. We cut down on alcohol, we skip sugary snacks, and we try to limit our intake of refined carbohydrates. While it's true that too much booze and processed sugar are no good for a balanced diet, carbohydrates tend to get a bad rap. A recent article in Self makes a strong case for rethinking our reservations by looking more closely at what this food group does to our bodies.
Basically, there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. When we eat them, our salivary and digestive enzymes break them down into their simplest form, otherwise known as glucose. That's absorbed into the small intestine, and then the liver helps transport it throughout our muscles and tissues for energy. Some glucose is stored away, and some is converted into fat. So how do we keep a vital stream of glucose running through our bodies without an excess of fat? Skip simple carbs for complex ones.
Simple carbs encompass the types of sugar-laden foods, like donuts and white bread, that cause blood levels to spike and possible signs of inflammation. On the other hand, complex carbs allow for a steadier supply of sugar into our bloodstreams that gives us energy over longer periods of time. The more complex carbs we eat—like whole grains, apples, and broccoli—the more energy we have to think clearly, work efficiently, and move quickly.
"Over half of our daily calories should come from quality carbohydrates, like whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables," Kim Larson, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Self. "We cannot support the brain if we are taking in less than 120 grams of carbohydrate per day, and a lack of glucose (like oxygen) to the brain can cause irreversible damage." So don't beat yourself up if a few complex carbs end up in your system. That's exactly what should happen. Head over to Self for more information.