Not all carbohydrates are the same. Many carbohydrate foods are incredibly healthy and nutritious.
While most nutrition experts agree that refined carbohydrates should be limited from the diet, whole-grain carbohydrate products should be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Refined or simple carbohydrates are considered harmful because, in their processing, most of the nutrients and fiber are removed.
However, refined carbohydrates are still the primary source of carbohydrates in the diet of many countries.
Eating refined carbohydrates is linked to an increased risk of diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
This article explains what refined carbohydrates are and why they are bad for your health.
- What are carbohydrates? – Classification and definition
- Simple Carbs – List of Food Examples
- Complex Carbs – What Are They?
What are refined carbohydrates?
Almost all the vegetable fiber, vitamins, and minerals have been stripped of refined carbohydrates. For this reason, they can be considered empty calories.
They are also quickly digested and have a high glycemic index. This means that they cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels after meals.
Refined carbohydrates are white flour, white bread, white rice, cakes, sodas, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals, and added sugars.
Recommended: carbohydrates, proteins and fats – ideal percentage
Why are refined carbohydrates bad?
Whole grains are made up of germ bran and endosperm. The bran and the germ are the most nutritious parts of whole grains.
They contain high amounts of many nutrients, such as fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.
The bran and germ are removed during the refining process, along with all the nutrients they contain.
Therefore, grains and refined carbohydrate foods are much lower in fiber and micronutrients. The only thing left in these foods is starch and small amounts of protein.
Diets high in refined carbohydrates also tend to be low in fiber. Low fiber diets have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and various digestive problems. (7)
- Causes of overweight and obesity
- Visceral Obesity – What is it, and what are its treatments?
- Diet without added sugar – Sample menu
Refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of obesity.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 38% of the adult population is overweight and around 15% obese; furthermore, the figure increases by two percentage points each year. (3)
Eating too many refined carbohydrates can be one of the leading causes.
Because they are low in fiber and digest quickly, eating refined carbohydrates can cause big swings in blood sugar levels. This can lead to overeating.
Refined carbohydrates cause satiety for less than an hour. At the same time, whole foods limit the feeling of hunger for up to 3 hours.
When you eat processed carbohydrates like soda or cookies, your blood sugar levels rise dramatically and drop quickly. This promotes hunger and stimulates brain parts associated with rewards and cravings.
Studies have also confirmed that eating refined carbohydrates for periods more extended than four years is linked to increased visceral fat. This type of fat is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks. (9)
Also, refined carbohydrates can cause inflammation in the body. Several investigations have speculated that this may be one of the main causes of leptin resistance and obesity.
- Vegetable Fiber Foods – Examples
- Is it reasonable to reduce carbohydrates to lose weight?
- Do fruits have sugar and are they fattening?
Refined carbohydrates can cause type 2 diabetes.
Refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of nutritional causes that affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide.
Studies show that a high intake of refined carbohydrates is linked to insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. (8)
Refined carbohydrates also increase blood triglyceride levels. This is a risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
A systematic study showed that people who ate the most processed carbohydrates were two to three times more likely to develop metabolic diseases than those who ate the least of these foods. (6)
- Diet for type 2 diabetics
- Fruits For Diabetics – Which Are The Best?
- Guide for people with diabetes – types, symptoms, and consequences
Not all carbohydrates are bad.
Eating a lot of refined carbohydrates can have many adverse health effects. However, not all carbohydrates are bad.
Some whole, carbohydrate-rich foods are incredibly healthy. These foods are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and various health-beneficial compounds.
Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, root vegetables, and whole grains, such as oatmeal and spelled.
Unless you are on a low-carb diet, there is absolutely no reason to avoid these foods because they contain carbohydrates.
If you want to stay healthy, you should start limiting refined carbohydrates from your diet.
Refined carbohydrate foods are bad because they increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases.
Some examples of these foods are soft drinks, bakery products, processed sweets, and all those that are high in sugar.