Carbohydrates and Heart Disease
The three main types of carbohydrates include sugar, starch, and fiber. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. During digestion, sugars and starches are converted into simple sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, your body uses this sugar (known as glucose) for energy. Carbohydrates are considered either simple or complex, depending on chemical makeup and how quickly your body breaks down the sugars and nutrients.
- Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and typically provide you a burst of energy. These carbohydrates can be found in refined sugars and processed foods such as candy, soda, and syrups. According to the American Heart Association, foods containing high amounts of simple sugars (found in refined sugars) raise triglyceride levels (or blood fats), associated with coronary heart disease and diabetes. However, not all simple sugars are bad for your health. Simple sugars can also be found in milk and fruit. The sugar in these foods are naturally occurring and provides your body with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates. Common examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains, potatoes, pasta, and bread. To maximize the health benefits of complex carbohydrates, you should avoid, or limit, processed foods. Consuming unrefined whole grains (wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice), fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and legumes (beans, lentils) are considered healthy carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates provide many benefits to your body including energy, fiber for digestive health, and essential vitamins and minerals. However, it’s important to choose foods that contain whole grains, fiber, and are low in added sugar. Choosing these types of foods will help you maintain, or start, a heart healthy diet.