Refined carbohydrates are considered to be of comparatively low nutritional value and are therefore best avoided or at least minimized to favor a healthy diet. When plants with a high concentration of carbohydrates are broken down using a process that leaves nothing behind but its starch or sugar, the resulting product is known as a refined carbohydrate. Refined carbs are essentially like concentrated carbohydrates that provoke a strong glycemic response in the body and are generally of little to no benefit in a traditional sense.
The list of refined carbs that find their way into our daily diets is astonishing to say the least, though suffice to say doesn’t contain a single example you’d look up as a healthy food. Among the more common example you might find yourself eating every day are:
The list goes on, but basically includes anything and everything that incorporates the above ingredients or follows a similar recipe. Most of these are the kinds of foodstuff most would eat infrequently, but others like bread, rice, pasta and so on can form parts of our everyday diets.
The debate as to whether carbohydrates on the whole are positive or negate things for a healthy diet rages on. Realistically though, it’s all about achieving a healthy balance and cutting nothing out entirely. In the case of refined processed carbohydrates more, these are examples of foods and ingredients that must be kept to absolute minimums in order to benefit health. And for those who consume refined carbs in large quantities or on a regular basis, the consequences can be severe.
Long-term studies have confirmed the ongoing suspicion that individuals who eat refined carbohydrates as a part of their daily diet are much more prone to weight gain that those who abstain. What’s more, those that eat wholegrain carbs instead have been found as the least likely to gain weight. The simple reason is the way in which wholegrain cereals and products contain essential fiber in higher amounts and also don’t provoke nearly as intense a blood sugar reaction, thus assisting with the control of a person’s appetite. By contrast, refined and processed carbs are known to have the opposite effect and encourage overeating.
The body depends on the insulin it produces in order to manage blood sugar levels and promote healthy abortion of essential sugars by the muscles. Research has shown that as intake of processed refined carbohydrates increases, so too do the body’s blood sugar levels and thus the levels of insulin released. Over time, the body can begin developing a resistance to the insulin which no longer has the desired effect and can lead to various health problems, including diabetes, certain forms of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.
A diet that includes an excessive intake of sugar has been linked to an increase of triglycerides in the bloodstream. These fatty cells have the potential to build up to such a point that the blood is no longer able to flow as freely and easily as it should, which can in turn lead to serious health problems like stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. Refined processed carbohydrates are known in some instances for their extremely high sugar content, which in turn means that the more refined carbs that are consumed, the bigger the risk of triglycerides becoming excessive. The recommended daily intake of sugar stands today at no more than nine teaspoons – the average American however consumes at least 22.
The human body depends on micronutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins to get by, just as it needs macronutrients like protein, fat and carbs. As such, the more of your diet that is taken up by refined carbohydrates, the less room there is left over for the good stuff your body needs. Overconsumption of processed carbs can therefore contribute to nutrient deficiencies, which have the potential to cause head to toe health complaints from vision impairment to skin problems to headaches to mood swings and more.
Complete and total elimination of refined processed carbs from your diet has the potential to seriously benefit your immediate and long-term health. And while it may sound like a pretty large-scale operation to do so, it’s actually more about making a series of smaller lifestyle changes. Once you get into the habit, you won’t even realize you’re making the effort anymore but can take comfort in knowing you’re a full 70% less likely to develop heart disease.
For example, one of the best ways to get started is to make a concerted effort to increase the level of fiber in your daily diet. The benefits of a fiber-rich diet are multiple and abundant, beginning with the way in which fiber helps the process of removing fatty substances and other harmful element from the body. Insoluble fiber travels through the body, effectively picking up and pushing out a variety of negative elements along the way and thus promoting health. And what’s more, fiber is also known to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which in turn makes you less likely to overeat and crave unhealthy refined carbs.
Another great habit to get into is that of replacing refined carbs with unrefined carbs, more commonly known as wholegrain. These are vastly more nutritious and beneficial alternatives that use the whole of the grain and thus retain much more goodness than refined carbs. The bran, endosperm and germ are all used in the wholegrain products and thus represent a source of fiber, folic acid and healthy oils. Products to look out for include whole-wheat bread, pasta and brown rice – all of which are leagues ahead in terms of nutrition.
Aside from these obvious substitutions, you can also take in your recommended daily allowance of carbs from extremely healthy sources like fresh fruits, which also carry the bonus of various vitamins and fiber. Potatoes and raw vegetables are also excellent sources of healthier carbohydrates, which likewise contain fiber and other essential nutrients.