Carbohydrates can be the scariest part of nutrition. We have so much information on carbs and so many schools of thought that it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not.
Many times carbs are labeled “good carbs” or “bad carbs,” but the reality is that all carbohydrates break down to the same level to be absorbed no matter if they are complex or simple carbohydrates.
What’s the difference?
Simple carbohydrates are smaller, more easily processed, and get into your bloodstream faster. They have either one or two sugar molecules linked together - monosaccharides and disaccharides.
Most people tend to think of only candy and “bad carbs” as they've been coined, but monosaccharides aren’t all what people would consider bad. Check this list:
Examples of Monosaccharides:
Fruits and fruit juices
Honey and syrups
Foods with added simple sugars: soft drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, sweetened dairy products, desserts
A complex carbohydrate is a little bigger and has more than two sugar molecules linked together - Polysaccharides. Polysaccharides absorb much slower because they have way more molecules to break down.
Examples of Polysaccharides:
Cereal grains (wheat, oats, barley, corn, rice…)
Pastries and cookies
Potatoes and yam
Legumes and beans
Green leafy vegetables
Peas and lentils
These will still be broken down into single sugar molecules, it just takes a minute. That’s what it means when you hear the term fast digesting and slow digesting carbohydrates.
Now, not all fast absorbing carbohydrates are “bad, ” and not all slow digesting carbohydrates are "good."
Fast absorbing carbs can actually be super useful, especially when you need them. Right after a workout is a great time to hit the fast absorbing carbs because you just depleted your energy stores and your muscles can use the carbohydrates for repair.
So, your habit for the next two weeks is: Choose smart, nutrient dense carbohydrates:
This is always a great list to come back to. While you won’t pick only these 100% of the time, this is a great list to keep in mind as you are choosing carbohydrates to serve your goals.