During a recent discussion with my father about low carb diets, he pointed to the butter on the table and said “is that a carbohydrate?” when I started to explain, he then pointed to the sugar and said “well, what about that?”.
Unfortunately, you cannot just point to a food and label it a “carbohydrate” as each food is made up of protein, carbs and fats in varying degrees. Some foods are almost all carb, and some, like meat, eggs and fish have none.
To make matters even more complicated, there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. For matters of nutrition, you should always pick the complex carbs which have a low glycemic index.
The simple carbohydrates include foods like desserts, sugar, white bread, candy. Typically, these foods have a little nutritional value. Though they may taste good, they are basically empty calories and are digested quickly causing a high blood sugar spike and then a quick drop off. This is the reason these foods don’t really satisfy your hunger and you get cravings for more shortly after having eaten them.
By contract, the complex carbohydrates are extremely nutritious, these are foods like legumes, whole grains, vegetables and most fruits. They are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Calorie for calorie, complex carbohydrates will fill you up more and leave you full longer then the simple carbohydrates.
When choosing which carbohydrates to put on your plate, you should try to load up on whole grains, fruits and vegetables but if they are not available in plentiful enough amounts, you should try to balance your simple carbs with your complex carbs and proteins. Use the simple carbs as more of a side dish – maybe filling ¼ of your plate with them and fill up on the lean protein and complex carbs. This will have a net effect of a more nutritious and filling meal as well as leave you satisfied longer.