Knowing the difference between complex carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates is essential for anyone wanting sustained and correct weight loss. Often, not being able to distinguish the difference is one of the main reasons that most people are not able to lose weight. In desperation, most people cut out carbohydrates all together.
Table of Contents for Article
- 1 What is a Carbohydrate
- 2 Complex Carbohydrates and Refined Carbohydrates
- 3 Complex Carbohydrates Provide a Steady Source of Energy
- 4 Excess Calories from Digestion of Refined Carbohydrates are Stored as Fat
- 5 Insulin Hormone and Fat Storage
- 6 Complex Carbohydrates are More Filling
- 7 Eat Carbohydrates in its Natural Form
What is a Carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy while protein is a very important building block. Fat can be used as a source of energy and also as a building block.
The body’s preferred fuel choice is glucose which is a very simple sugar molecule derived from carbohydrates. Glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel. Your brain cannot burn fat for fuel. Glucose is also an excellent source of energy when sudden and quick exertion is required such as a 100 m sprint. Fat is a better source of energy when a long and sustained energy source is required such as going for a 5 km jog.
Carbohydrates are made from simple sugar molecules such as glucose or fructose (fruit sugar). These simple sugar molecules are bonded together to form longer chains of sugar in a carbohydrate.
Complex Carbohydrates and Refined Carbohydrates
Digestion of carbohydrates require the breakdown of the longer chains into simple sugar molecules such as glucose and fructose. The body can only utilize carbohydrates for energy when the longer chains are broken down to glucose molecules. Only simple sugars such as glucose can be absorbed through the intestine.
Complex carbohydrates are made from 3 sugar molecules and more to form longer sugar chains. Complex carbohydrates are food found in its natural form. These include fruits, nuts, seeds, unprocessed or whole grain and vegetables.
The largest source of complex carbohydrates is unprocessed or whole grain. Whole grain essentially means eating the grain on the whole as it is harvested. If a grain can be sprouted, it is a complex carbohydrate. If you cannot sprout it, it is refined grain and probably contains lots of simple sugar. Examples of whole grain include oats, rye, hulled and de-hulled barley (not pearl), brown rice and wheat.
Refined carbohydrates are also known as simple carbohydrates or simple sugars. Refined carbohydrates are easy to identify as it comes as a refined powder in its raw state. Most of the time it is white in colour. Common examples of this include white rice, white flour and white bread. Most junk food, pastries, fruit juices, colas, sodas and desserts are made of simple or refined carbohydrates.
Complex Carbohydrates Provide a Steady Source of Energy
Digestive enzymes have to work much harder to access the bonds to break the chains of complex carbohydrates into individual sugar molecules. The break down of these long chains require time and energy. For this reason, digesting an oat meal takes much more energy and time than digesting a doughnut even though the portions eaten could have the same energy content.The slow and steady digestion process of a complex carbohydrate ensures that there is a steady supply of energy to meet your needs.
Excess Calories from Digestion of Refined Carbohydrates are Stored as Fat
Refined or simple carbohydrates need very little digestion effort. Refined carbohydrates are broken down very easily and are rapidly absorbed through the intestine. The in rush of glucose into the blood stream is rapid and usually results in excess available energy. The body stores the excess glucose as fat. Once all the excess glucose is used up by being stored as fat and used to meet the immediate energy needs, you will become hungry again. Eating refined carbohydrates will result in very rapid weight gain.
The sudden influx of sugar molecules into the blood stream requires that your body over-release insulin into the blood stream to control the blood sugar levels. The body tries very hard to keep blood sugar within a very tight range and it achieves this via the insulin hormone.
Insulin Hormone and Fat Storage
Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. It allows the transport of glucose into cells that require energy. Without insulin, glucose cannot be absorbed into cells and the level of blood sugar would increase. This leads to type 1 diabetes.
The body could also become less sensitized to insulin thus resulting in more and more insulin being required to force the same amount of glucose into cells. Eventually, the increasing demand for insulin puts such a strain on the pancreas that it is not able to cope with the insulin demands. This results to type 2 diabetes.
Insulin is a very potent fat storage hormone. When insulin levels are high, it is impossible to burn fat. Instead, every little bit of food you eat ends up getting stored as fat. Eating lots of simple sugar causes insulin level to remain elevated.
Complex Carbohydrates are More Filling
Consuming complex carbohydrates also have a higher satiety index. It simply means that complex carbohydrates are more filling than simple carbohydrates. It is more filling to eat oat meal rather than a doughnut even if both food portions have the same energy content.
Eat Carbohydrates in its Natural Form
Eat an apple instead of drinking apple juice. An apple is a complex carbohydrate while apple juice is full of simple sugars. Eat whole wheat or rye bread instead of white bread. Eat brown rice instead of processed white rice.
Ensure that 90% of your carbohydrate consumption consists of complex carbohydrates. This will help normalize blood sugar, insulin levels as well as allow you to lose weight. Complex carbohydrates will enable you to achieve correct weight loss.
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