Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. All carbohydrates come from plant foods, except for those found in dairy products. Carbohydrates are made of either one sugar molecule, or two or more sugar molecules strung together. These molecular combinations create various sugars and starches. Both sugars and starches eventually break down into glucose in the body when digested.
The rate at which a carbohydrate breaks down into glucose and is absorbed into the bloodstream determines how high it raises your blood sugar and insulin levels, and how it affects your health.
Carbohydrates from whole plant foods, such as broccoli, raspberries, and lentils, provide slower burning fuel, like logs in a slow-burning furnace. This gives you a more sustainable form of energy and keeps you satiated longer. The fiber in these whole plant foods helps slow down the absorption rate of the carbohydrates, keeping your blood sugar more stable.
On the other hand, processed and refined carbohydrates such as bagels, cereals, crackers, and cookies provide you with a quick hit of fuel, like fast burning paper. This rapidly spikes and then dips your blood sugar and leaves you wanting more soon after you’ve eaten—in order to bring your blood sugar back up. The processing and refining of carbohydrate foods strips away their valuable, slow-digesting fiber.
Whole plant foods are the best options when choosing carbohydrates, especially due to their high fiber content which also feeds the good bacteria in your gut. When the good gut bacteria are well-fed, they can do a much better job of keeping the bad bacteria in check. Plant foods such as vegetables and fruits provide you with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. They are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and they make it easy for you to meet your daily nutritional needs. Vegetables and fruits also help keep your cells healthy, your blood sugar stable, and your digestive system regular.