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Carbohydrates ; facts and myths


All people have confusion whether to eat carbohydrates (carbs) or not. Healthy and unhealthy foods contain carbohydrates. Let us get all the doubts and confusions cleared through this article.

Carbs from healthy food provide us fiber, vitamins and minerals that help to strengthen the immune system and boost metabolism, whereas carbs from unhealthy food provide instant energy but it also spikes blood sugar level which is responsible for weight gain, diabetes mellitus (Type-II diabetes), obesity, thyroiditis and hypertension.

There are two categories of Carbohydrates : Refined carbs and Complex carbs. Both refined and complex carbs are turned into blood glucose in the body and it gives us energy. Let’s see how each of them works in our body.

Refined carbs:

They are also described as simple carbs or processed carbs. It includes sugar and white grains. Refined sugar is converted into glucose, sucrose, maltose and lactose (milk sugar). White grains means white flour (Maida) processed from wheat. All vitamins, minerals and fiber are removed from refined carbs, so it is called “empty calories”. Digestion of Refined carbs is very fast and have a high glycemic index that causes a rapid spike in blood sugar level and insulin level.

Refined carbs (sugar and refined grains) are responsible for obesity or being overweight. When we consume refined carbs, sudden increase in blood sugar level occurs and our brain signals pancreas to release insulin to bring blood sugar back to normal. Too much of glucose needs too much of insulin, so on the other hand blood sugar drops quickly again, this is known as “blood sugar crash”. At that time we feel discomfort and hunger, so we eat refined carbs or tea or coffee. Repeating the same cycle again and again causes insulin resistance. Studies have shown that insulin resistance raises leptin (satiety hormone), eventually leading to leptin resistance. Combination of insulin and leptin resistance causes obesity.

refined carbohydrates

Food list of Refined carbs or High GI (Glycemic Index)

Pizza, Burger, Bread (all types of bread), naan, kulcha, french fries, corn flakes, choco flakes, toast, pasta, donuts, noodles, packaged chips, biscuits, cake, pastries, cupcake, pancake, ketchup, fruit jams, soda, sweet tea, sports drink(also claimed zero calories drink), fries chicken, cereals, cereals bars, fruits yogurt, fruit juice with sugar, beverages with added fructose corn syrup, chocolates ( except dark chocolates).

Complex carbs:

They also have sugar molecules with long complex and compound chains. Complex carbs provide us fiber, vitamins and minerals, which are very important to the body. Because of fiber, their digestion is slow. Complex carbs make the stomach feel full and heavy, we don’t feel hungry soon. Complex carbs release sugar slowly in the body, so they maintain blood sugar level. Because of this process insulin and leptin levels also remain balanced. In cases of Type-II diabetes, complex carbs are very useful because many people are struggling to balance blood sugar levels.

Another name of Complex is low GI food which have two main components with magical properties;

complex carbohydrates
  1. Fiber: It helps to maintain gut health. It cleanses the bowel and removes toxins from the body. It lowers blood sugar level, also lowers LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein) levels. It also helps to achieve ideal weight.
  2. Starch: It is the energy source for humans. The body digests starch by metabolizing it into glucose. This glucose passes into the bloodstream and circulates inside the body. It fuels all cells, tissues and all organs of the body.

If there is excess glucose, the liver stores glucose as glycogen, is useful in body’s starving condition.

Food list of Complex carbs or Low GI (Glycemic Index)

Vegetables: All vegetables ( we should different vegetables everyday for better results)

Fruits: Apples, Bananas, Berries

Legumes and Lentils: Peas, Kidney beans (rajma), all dals (tuvar dal, moong dal, udad dal, etc)

Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts.

Seeds: Flax Seeds, Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, fenugreek seeds.

Whole grains: Jawar, Jav, Bajra, Ragi, Oats, Corn, Dalia (cracked wheat), Quinoa.

Other Foods: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, cucumber, drumsticks, carrots.

It is also a myth that carbs are responsible only for weight gain but carbs aren’t bad. Carbs are very essential in producing energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Without carbs our body will crash and suffer from nutritional deficiency, zero carb diet is probably not an optimal choice.

The bottom line is complex carbs contain nutrients which balances the roller coaster of blood sugar level and provides the best option for controlling body weight.

Hope this article has helped you understand the basics of “Facts and Myths about Carbohydrates”. If you find this post helpful do share it with others. For more such important and useful information, keep visiting our website and follow us on social media for getting regular updates.

Dr.Hetal Patel


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