Fiber and Carbs are important components of healthy nutrition. Yet many people have a total lack of understanding of their importance to our health. Accordingly, when it comes to nutrition, it seems carbohydrates are the least understood macronutrient. There are simple and complex carbs which also include fiber and starches.
Exactly what is the difference in these carbs, and why should we care?
Simple carbohydrates are sugar which we add to foods to make them sweeter and highly palatable. Common simple carbs added to foods include:
corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
glucose, fructose, and sucrose
honey and agave syrup
fruit juice concentrate
Refined sugars are carbohydrates that have been stripped of all their nutritional value. Moreover, they are nothing more than empty calories which provide us a quick jolt of energy when we consume them. Refined sugars are digested quickly by our digestive tract which results in a rapid spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels after we eat.
In many countries around the world, sugar is a very large part of peoples total carb intake. Overeating and an increased risk of many diseases has been linked to the consumption of foods which contain these refined sugars. Correspondingly, diets high in refined carbs also tend to be low in fiber which increases the risk of diseases like heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and various digestive problems
Besides being added to all sorts of processed foods, the main dietary sources of simple carbs are white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, and breakfast cereals.
Before you sit down with your next meal, think about your health implications !
Complex carbohydrates are far superior to simple carbohydrates because they are higher in beneficial nutrients, and fiber which make them digest slower. This action helps with managing blood sugar spikes after meals, therefore, complex carbohydrates are ideal for type 2 diabetics.
Fiber and starch are the two types of complex carbohydrates. Fiber is especially important because it promotes bowel regularity and helps to control cholesterol, .
The main sources of dietary fiber include:
Starch is also found in some of the same foods as fiber. The difference is certain foods are considered more starchy than fibrous, such as potatoes.
Other high-starch foods are:
whole wheat bread
Contrary to what advocates of Keto will tell you, we need fiber and carbs in our diet. Complex carbohydrates are key to our long-term health, consequently, they make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. They can even help guard against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems in the future.
What fiber does for us.
Dietary fiber is the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb, therefore, it isn’t digested by your body like proteins and fats. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body.
Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve.
- Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. Insoluble fiber is a benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.(1)
The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.
A high-fiber diet:
- Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool. This is because fiber absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
- Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Studies have also found that a high-fiber diet likely lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
- Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran can help lower total blood cholesterol levels. It does this by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar and helps to improve blood sugar levels. It is known that a healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, therefore you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. High-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and are less energy dense, which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. We always advocate eating low calorie, nutrient dense foods at David’s Way.
- Helps you live longer. You have a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers when you increase your dietary fiber intake. (1)
Hopefully this article will help you to better understand the ins and outs of fiber and carbs to a larger degree!