Refined vs. Unrefined Carbohydrates

Q: What is the difference between “refined” and “unrefined” carbohydrates and is it that significant?

A: Carbohydrates are the “quick energy” fuel suppliers for the body. Such foods burn quickly for energy; they are readily converted to fat.

There are simple and complex carbohydrates. The former include the sugars, fruits and sweet vegetables, while the latter includes the starches such as breads, cereals, grains, pastas and starchy vegetables. Complex carbs consist of sugar molecules linked together by certain chemical bonds and require an enzyme to break them down to sugar for our bodies to utilize.

“Refining” is a process that can apply to simple or complex carbohydrates. It is the act of removing fiber, nutrients, typically water, and other items within the food in its natural state. The purpose is for the most part to prolong shelf life or concentrate taste. Unluckily, in so doing the sugars are concentrated, that can cause our blood sugar levels to change more rapidly than normal, paving the way to swings in sugar levels that can bring about symptoms (fatigue, irritability, appetite and many others). More to these, nutrients are removed that are needed for the utilization of the sugar that remains in the refined product. This implies that those nutrients should be taken from body stores instead of the food, which could eventually cause deficiencies.

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