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Q&A: Complex Carbohydrates

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Q: Would you review again why we should eat complex carbohydrates and define what they are? Thank you.

A: Let’s talk about simple carbohydrates first. These are those foods whose simple molecular structure converts quickly to glucose (sugar) in the body. They include anything with a high sugar content (including high fructose corn syrup) and refined foods, including anything made with refined white flour (breads, pastries, pasta).

Eating these foods–which your body perceives as sugar–is largely responsible for our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Plus, ingesting simple carbs causes your blood sugar level to zoom high within a few minutes and then plummet. During this blood sugar drop, you might feel irritable, lightheaded, and very hungry, and if you don’t know why it’s happening, you might eat more simple carbs, starting the cycle all over again.

In other words, if you have a machiatto and a piece of pastry for breakfast, you’ll be famished an hour or two later. If you have a bag of potato chips for a snack, the same thing will occur.

Choose instead a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit for breakfast, and a handful of nuts or some natural peanut butter on whole wheat for a snack. Eats beans and veggies every day. Because it takes much longer for your digestive system to convert these complex carbohydrates to glucose, eating them will keep you from experiencing dramatic swings in blood sugar levels (and from being hungry).

Complex carbs include whole grains like barley, oatmeal, and whole wheat; fruits; vegetables; and legumes (nuts, seeds, beans). For a complete listing of simple and complex carbs, click here.

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