Not All Carbs are Created Equal

By May 14, 2019 No Comments

By Darcie Inouye, Student at UH Manoa

WYAO Hawaii collaborates with the community through one of UH Manoa’s Nutrition classes, Community Nutrition and Nutrition Education, instructed by Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, CDN to help students translate nutrition science into terms the general public can understand using blogging as their tool.

What do fresh strawberries, a can of Arizona Iced Tea, and a bowl of edamame have in common? They are all chock-full of carbohydrates! Carbs are used as your body’s main source of energy. However, not all carbs are created equal. You’ve probably heard them being called “simple” or “complex,” but a better way to view them is by the way they’re digested: fast or slow.

Fast-digesting carbs are processed foods that have been stripped of fiber, like sugars, added sugars, and refined white grains. Some examples of these are candy, sugary beverages, pastries, pasta, and white rice. These carbs have been shown to cause spikes in blood sugar, which can increase your risk of developing diabetes. On top of that, these carbs usually don’t provide much nutrients unless they are enriched, like many white breads.

On the other hand, slow-digesting carbs are whole foods that contain higher amounts of fiber. These kinds of carbs can be found in whole grains, veggies, fruits, and beans. They also have a much better reputation because they make you feel fuller; provide more nutrients; and are associated with having a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. Unlike fast-digesting carbs, they have been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, making them more diabetes-friendly.

So, the next time you order a plate lunch, your body will be thanking you when you choose brown rice instead of white; tossed green salad instead of macaroni salad, and water instead of a Coca-Cola.


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Reynolds A, Mann J, Cummings J, Winter N, Mete E, Te Morenga L. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Lancet. 2019;393(10170):434-445. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31809-9

Zazpe I, Santiago S, Gea A, et al. Association between a dietary carbohydrate index and cardiovascular disease in the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016;26(11):1048-1056. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2016.07.002

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