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Carbohydrates are organic compounds which are an essentialpart of a healthy diet. They have gained some negative publicity through Atkinsand other low-carb diets. It is important to note that while some carbohydratescan lead to the occurrence of disease, there are carbs that are actually goodfor the overall health.

Good and badcarbohydrates

Carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.Digestive tract breaks down carbs into sugars and that is the only form in whichthe bloodstream can absorb them. Apart from sugar, carbs also come in the form of fibers andstarches. Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet, asthey provide the body with the energy it needs to perform various activities and enable the proper functioning of organs. Some types of food such as pastries, white bread, whiterice, highly processed foods and sugared drinks are packed with carbohydratesthat can lead to obesity. On the other hand, carbs found in whole grains, beans, fruitand vegetables supply the body with essential minerals, vitamins and fiber andthus promote good health.

Glycemic index

The old division of carbohydrates to simple or complex isnow being replaced by a new classification system, called the glycemic index. Thecarbs are now treated based on the speed at which they increase blood sugarlevels. White bread, for instance, is a food with high glycemicindex, causing a rapid increase of blood sugar. Oats, on the other hand, have alow glycemic index, they take longer to digest and do not bring about suddenchanges in the levels of blood sugar.

Excessive consumption of foods with a high glycemic indexhave been associated with the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heartdisease, macular degeneration, infertility in women and colorectal cancer. High-glycemic-indexfood are subject to excessive processing which depletes the food of outer bran, rich in fiberand inner germ, packed with vitamins and minerals, and comes up with productslacking in nutritional value. Although this new system has many downsides, it is safe toconclude that replacing highly processed food with whole grain is the rightdecision to make.

Best carbs

One reasonable dietary choice is to consume intact grainsfound in whole wheat breads, whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole oats, quinoa,bulgur, wheat berries, barley or millet. Beans are known as an excellent source of protein, but theyalso supply the body with slow digested carbs, which makes them highlyrecommendable. These carbohydrates are not only abundant with essentialnutrients, but they also reduce the risk of chronic disease.

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