When you think carbs, what comes to mind?

Is it a donut? Is it a bagel or a bowl of pasta? Do you think of leafy green spinach or a veggie filled salad? How about apples and pears?

Actually, all these foods are considered carbs. There’s a lot of confusion about carbohydrates, so let’s break it down.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients in our diet (the others being protein and fat). Carbohydrate foods include vegetables, fruits, beans/legumes, and grains. Most processed foods are mainly carbohydrate as well as sodas, juices, and other sugar sweetened beverages.

After you eat them, carbohydrates are broken down in your body to release energy in the form of glucose (you know, the stuff that fuels you). Carbohydrates signal your body to secrete insulin and insulin is what stores that glucose in our cells.

Does it matter which carbs I eat?

Can all these carbohydrates be lumped together? Is a carb just always a carb? Simply put… no.

Despite what many people may tell you, the types of carbohydrate we eat are important and warrant some attention. Your body needs carbs for glucose, but some are better at releasing this glucose slow and steady. These include lots of colorful vegetables, a fair amount of starchy vegetables (think sweet potatoes), some whole grains (think brown rice and quinoa) and a little fruit all full of vitamins, minerals, and good-for-you fiber.

Limit or steer clear of all the other forms of carbohydrates including refined grains like white bread and pasta, sugary drinks, and processed snack foods. These foods are essentially sugars and they spike your blood sugar without providing all that good stuff that vegetables and fruits provide. This can wreak havoc inside your body contributing to weight gain, interfering with weight loss, and even promoting some chronic diseases. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that needs a package to tell you what it is.

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