Carbohydrates are the essential element of any diet. But it is far otherwise with the so-called refined carbs and refined grains in particular. Let’s puzzle out the difference.
Carbohydrates or carbs are one of the three essential macronutrients that constitute our diet. They are the main source of energy, necessary for our bodies. But not all the carbs are healthy in the same way. The so-called refined carbs or refined grains in most cases are something quite the opposite. So, what are they, where are they contained, is it possible to avoid them, and how can they harm your health and fitness? Let’s puzzle out.
What Are Refined Carbohydrates?
The word “refined” may sound like something good but when it comes to carbs this is not the case.
Basically, refined carbs or refined grains are the grain products that have been deprived of everything healthy. This means that in the process of manufacturing, the grains were processed so that fiber, vitamins, and minerals were removed from them.
The grains are usually refined by manufacturers with one purpose in mind: to please the majority of customers, who are not too conscious about their health. The thing is that the products made of the refined grains instead of whole ones are softer, better in texture, and characterized by a taste that more people like.
Refined carbs may be present in a healthy diet to some extent — in the form of the so-called enriched grains — but they are not the healthiest choice anyway.
What Are Enriched Grains?
Refined grains are called enriched when the essential nutrients are added back into them in the process of manufacturing. This way, the half-healthy carbohydrates-based products are produced. Why “half”? Simply because they still lack fiber though the vitamins and minerals are added back in.
You may distinguish such products looking at the labels. For example, on the label of some types of bread, you may find the phrase “enriched flour”. The nutritionists suggest that eating such products may provide some nutritional benefit — but only compared with the foods made of ordinary refined grains. Also, they are often too high in calories, fats, and sugars. So, it is better not to overeat them anyway and try to replace them with whole grain foods that are considered the healthiest type of carbohydrates-rich products.
What Foods Contain Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbs may be found in many foods (and some of them are quite unexpected). For example, most of the products in the bread section of a store contain this type of macronutrient. Also, it is often found in snacks, desserts, and even pasta products. Here are just some examples:
- White pasta;
- White rice;
- Breads (especially sandwich and sweet);
- White buns (like those in hamburgers);
- Pancakes, and so on.
Still, not everything from this list is obligatory based on refined grains. The only way to know for sure is to check the food labels. The refined carbohydrates may hide under the names like “refined flour”, “refined grains”, and “enriched flour”.
How to Eat Less Refined Carbohydrates
So, how can one avoid eating refined carbs? The answer is quite simple. The main thing you need for that is to find out where they come from to your diet. For that, you may use the list above as a starting point. The next step is to replace them with healthy whole grain analogs.
For example, replace white bread in your sandwiches with whole grain one. You may even get creative and think of no-bread sandwiches, made of vegetables, especially if your aim is to lose weight. Look for whole grain crackers or breakfast cereals on the shelves of a store instead of your usual ones. Even the usual pasta and pizza dough rich in refined carbs have healthy whole grain analogs — the only thing you need to do is to find them.
Having replaced as much refined and enriched grains with whole grains in your ration as possible, you will increase the amount of fiber you consume. At the same time, you will get all the vitamins and minerals contained in whole grains. This way, your digestive system will function better and you will become overall healthier. And one more advantage: the fiber will help you eat less by making you feel full longer.