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Simple and Complex Carbs for Heart Health

April 25, 2010

You’ve probably heard of diets that help you lose weight by cutting out carbs. But carbohydrates provide most of the energy needed in our daily lives, both for normal body functions such as heartbeat, breathing and digestion and for exercise such as cycling, walking and running. For optimum heart health, we need to remember the difference between simple and complex carbs.

complex carbs and heart healthSimple carbohydrates are known as the 'bad' carbs. Sugary and often highly processed, they contain refined sugars and few essential vitamins and minerals. These are the carbs we should cut out - baked goods, white breads, snack foods, candies, and soft drinks. Consistently eating large amounts of high-sugar, low-fiber, nutritionally-poor 'bad carbs' eventually leads to a much higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. Most of the simple carbs we eat should come nature - fruits and milk or yogurt, or honey and molasses, all of which also contain vitamins and minerals.

Complex carbohydrates are the “good” carbs. A diet rich in these foods will lead to a more even distribution of energy throughout the day, rather than the sugar rush and crash from simple carbs. You can think of them as unprocessed foods in their 'natural' state - or very close to their natural state. They have been minimally altered by man or machine (or not altered at all). They take longer to digest and are usually packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pretty much all 'leafy' vegetables and fruits fit into this category along with beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds and whole-grain foods - whether cereal, breads or pastas. Most experts recommend that 50 to 60 per cent of the total calories in our diet come from carbohydrates, and the bulk of the carbs we consume should be complex.