Carbohydrates are the number one nutrient in food that is most easily converted into glucose (“sugar”) in our bloodstream, and most easily raises our blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels.
All forms carbohydrates, except for fiber, are broken down and converted into sugar in our bloodstream.
There are 3 different types of carbohydrates:
Foods high in starch include:
Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, lima beans and potatoes
Dried beans, lentils and peas such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and split peas
Grains like oats, barley and rice.
The grain group can be broken down even further into whole grain or refined grain.
A grain contains three parts:
The bran is the outer hard shell of the grain. It is the part of the grain that provides the most fiber and most of the B vitamins and minerals.
The germ is the next layer and is packed with nutrients including essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
The endosperm is the soft part in the center of the grain. It contains the starch. Whole grain means that the entire grain kernel is in the food
If you eat a whole grain food, it contains the bran, germ, and endosperm so you get all of the nutrients that whole grains have to offer. If you eat a refined grain food, it contains only the endosperm or the starchy part so you miss out on a lot of vitamins and minerals. Because whole grains contain the entire grain, they are much more nutritious than refined grains.
Sugar is another type of carbohydrate. You may also hear sugar referred to as simple or fast-acting carbohydrate.
There are two main types of sugar:
Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit
Added sugars such as those added during processing such as canned juice or sugar added to make a cookie
On the nutrition facts label, the number of sugar grams includes both added and natural sugars.
Fiber comes from plant foods so there is no fiber in animal products such as milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish.
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. When you consume dietary fiber, most of it passes through the intestines and is not digested.
Fiber contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating.
Additional health benefits, of a diet high in fiber — such as a reduction in cholesterol levels — have been suggested by some so may be an additional benefit.
Good sources of dietary fiber include:
Beans and legumes. Think black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas (garbanzos), white beans, and lentils.
Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (for example, apples, corn and beans) and those with edible seeds (for example, berries).
Whole grains such as:
Whole wheat pasta
Whole grain cereals (Look for those with three grams of dietary fiber or more per serving, including those made from whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats.)
Whole grain breads (To be a good source of fiber, one slice of bread should have at least three grams of fiber. Another good indication: look for breads where the first ingredient is a whole grain. For example, whole whe+at or oats.) Many grain products now have "double fiber" with extra fiber added.
Nuts — try different kinds. Peanuts, walnuts and almonds are a good source of fiber and healthy fat, but watch portion sizes, because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.