You may have heard that it's best not to consume too many carbohydrates in a day. But what exactly are carbohydrates, what different types are there, and what effects can they have when eaten correctly? In this article, we'll share the answers!

Carbohydrates in nutrition

Carbohydrates are one of the three main categories that make up our diet. Together, these categories are called macronutrients, with the other two consisting of proteins and fats. All the calories we consume in a day come from these macronutrients, and our nutritional needs are further supplemented by vitamins and minerals.

Types of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates serve as an energy source for the body, but it's important to know that not all carbohydrates are the same. This article distinguishes between refined and complex carbohydrates, also known as fast carbohydrates and slow carbohydrates.

Refined carbohydrates (fast carbohydrates)

Refined carbohydrates consist of processed grains and simple sugars. Often referred to as "empty carbohydrates," they are stripped of their nutritional value and vitamins. As a result, they are quickly digested by the body, leading to rapid increases in blood sugar and insulin levels. This can leave you feeling hungry again sooner.

Moreover, consuming too many refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of insulin resistance, leading to more frequent snacking between meals. Examples of simple sugars are found in all sugary treats. Refined grains include white flour used in pasta or white bread, as well as sweetened beverages, breakfast cereals with added sugars, pastries, cakes, cookies, desserts, and snacks like chips and crackers.

soorten koolhydraten

Complex carbohydrates (slow carbohydrates)

In contrast, complex carbohydrates provide more nourishment, take longer to digest, and don't cause the rapid insulin spikes. They contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to refined carbohydrates, leading to a more sustained feeling of fullness. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains, legumes, rice, and potatoes.

waarin zitten koolhydraten

The impact of carbohydrates on your body

Eating (too many) refined carbohydrates can contribute to various health issues. Overweight is often a direct consequence of excessive consumption, and since these products are low in nutrients, they lead to short energy spikes followed by longer periods of fatigue (energy dips).

Research has shown that a diet high in refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and type II diabetes. Additionally, it may cause issues like fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, poor digestion, or skin problems.

Refined sugars

Eating refined sugars is like filling your car with the wrong type of fuel :-). While simple sugars can be convenient for quick boosts of energy, it's worth noting that even athletes performing at their peak often benefit more from digesting complex, slower carbohydrates.

Nutritious sources of carbohydrates

If you've noticed that certain foods leave you feeling low on energy or affect your mood, you can adjust your eating habits by choosing foods that help nourish your body properly.

While the occasional treat of refined carbohydrates is fine, it's best to focus on nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrates like whole grains (such as whole wheat, spelt, barley, quinoa, etc.), fresh or frozen unsweetened fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Feel free to seek advice from our trainers at Physicum!

If you have specific goals and want to know the optimal amount of certain products (or macronutrients) to consume for the best results, our personalized nutrition coaching options may be just what you need!