The main function of carbohydrates in our diet is to provide us with energy. Simple carbohydrates/simple sugars and complex carbohydrates both do this, but the way in which the body breaks down their contents and thus absorbs their energy vary in efficiency.
Simple carbs such as fruit juice, soda, and milk contain refined sugars, which break down very quickly in the body. The digested sugars are quickly taken up by the blood stream, causing a spike in blood sugar levels and often a jarring rush of energy. This prompts the pancreas to remove excess sugar from your blood by secreting insulin. The lower blood sugar levels lead you to crave more simple sugar-containing products, creating a nasty cycle of dependency that inhibits weight loss.
Food containing complex carbs, on the other hand, are more nutritious. They include brown rice, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms. When these are consumed, the glucose molecules are either used as energy, stored in the muscles, or stored in the liver as glucagon, depending on the body’s current needs. This enables us to use our energy more efficiently, preventing us from “crashing” and craving more food.
Carbohydrates give our bodies the calories we need to produce energy that goes towards basic biological functions like digestion, heartbeat, and breathing. Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates both give us energy, but the difference lies in how quickly our body can digest and process them.
Simple sugars are carbohydrates with a chemical structure consisting of two or fewer sugars, which means they are digested very quickly. This quick digestion causes spikes in blood sugar and may make you feel a quick jolt of energy. This is why some people claim that sugar is a good way to stay awake and alert. However, in turn, your pancreas secretes insulin to remove excess sugar from your system, resulting in a “crash” that makes you feel tired and sluggish.
Complex carbohydrates have a chemical structure consisting of three or more sugars, and take longer for your body to digest. Complex carbs don’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as simple sugars do and allow your body to produce energy at a slower, but steadier rate. This keeps your body functioning and alert for a longer period of time, without the sudden energy crash later.
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