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Health Benefits of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, commonly referred to as carbs, are essential to your body and its daily functions. There are different types of carbohydrates, and some may be healthier than others.
Here are some facts about what carbohydrates are, what they do for your body, and how to distinguish between good and bad carbs. Additionally, we list some health benefits of carbohydrates and how you can include more in your diet.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in many different foods. Carbs are typically broken down by your body and transformed into glucose, which is then used as energy.1 Your brain relies on carbohydrates for fuel to carry out many functions throughout the body.2
Most carbohydrates naturally occur in plant-based foods, such as grains, but manufacturers often add carbs to food in the form of sugar or starch.
- Sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Types of sugar include fructose, sucrose, and lactose. This sugar can naturally be found in fruits, vegetables, and milk. However, added sugars that contribute little nutritional value can be found in many desserts, drinks, and candy.
- Starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it’s made with many sugar units that are bonded together. Starch is naturally found in vegetables, grains, and beans.
- Fiber. Fiber is another complex carbohydrate. It occurs naturally in most whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans.
Benefits of Carbohydrates
When you consume the right kind of carbohydrates, they can provide many health benefits.4
- Carbs can boost your mood. Research has found that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that boosts mood and is considered a “feel good” chemical.
- Carbs are heart-healthy. Foods that contain complex carbs usually contain soluble fiber, which helps to lower LDL, or the “bad,” cholesterol. An excessive amount of LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup in the blood vessels, and puts you more at risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Carbs help control weight. Most complex carbs contain fiber which helps you to feel full longer. This can prevent you from feeling hungry and snacking throughout the day. Fiber also leads to healthy digestion, which aids in weight management.
Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates
While carbohydrates provide many health benefits, there are some “bad” carbs to watch out for.
Simple carbs, such as sugar, are carbohydrates that provide little nutritional value. Simple carbs should be consumed in moderation for multiple reasons. They can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, and they are also digested quickly, which leaves you feeling hungry sooner.5
Many of the foods that you might eat daily consist of simple carbs. Some of these foods include:
- White bread
- Enriched or refined pasta or dough
- Pastries, cookies, and cakes
- Potato chips
- White rice
Complex carbohydrates, such as starch and fiber, are the “good” kind that help fuel your body. These carbs often have nutrients that benefit your body. Complex carbohydrates are digested slower, which can leave you feeling fuller for longer while providing you with energy.
Choosing a complex carb, such as opting for whole grain bread instead of white, will allow you to reap the health benefits that carbs provide. Whole foods with complex carbs are also typically less processed.
Complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help to fuel your body for the day.6
How to Eat More Healthy Carbohydrates
- Fruit such as berries, melons, apples, bananas and kiwi
- Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots
- Milk products such as low-fat milk and plain yogurt
- Nuts including sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain cereals
- Legumes including black beans, lentils, pinto beans, and navy beans
It’s best to talk with your doctor if you’re wondering how many carbohydrates you should be eating in a day. Following a fad diet, or eating zero carbs a day, is not the best choice.
How many carbohydrates you should consume on a daily basis will depend on multiple factors including age, gender, physical activity, and metabolic health.
Learn More Today
Now that you’ve learned about the health benefits of good carbohydrates, try to eat some foods that contain healthy carbs today!
Here at Saber Healthcare, we prioritize our residents and offer services and dietary options to help them meet their nutritional goals. Our dietary teams work hard to develop and create menus that are not only delicious but also meet residents’ daily nutrition needs.
Saber Healthcare is an organization that provides services to more than 115 buildings across the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Delaware, and Florida. To learn more about our company and services, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- Gunnars, Kris. “Carbohydrates: Whole vs. Refined – Here’s the Difference.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. July 14th, 2021. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/good-carbs-bad-carbs.
- “Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function.” National Library of Medicine, PubMed Central. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3900881/#:~:text=Glucose%20metabolism%3A%20fueling%20the%20brain,delivery%20of%20glucose%20from%20blood.
- “Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705#:~:text=Carbohydrates%20are%20an%20essential%20part,they%20provide%20many%20important%20nutrients.
- Horton, Brierley. “6 Reasons You Should Be Eating Carbs.” Allrecipes Food Group, EatingWell. December 2nd, 2021. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/16138/6-reasons-you-should-be-eating-carbs/.
- Sachdev, Poonam. “What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Carbs?” WebMD, Nourish by WebMD. June 22nd, 2021. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/diet/whats-the-difference-between-good-and-bad-carbs.
- “Good vs. Bad Carbs: What Should You Eat?” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. March 18th, 2022. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/good-carb-bad-carb-dont-buy-into-4-myths/.
- “Carbohydrates 101: The benefits of carbohydrates.” Reid Health, reidhealth.org. Accessed November 3rd, 2022. https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/carbohydrates-101-the-benefits-of-carbohydrates.