The Truth About What Different Carbs Do To Your Body

We've all been there before. It's 3 p.m., your energy is waning, and your belly is telling you it's time for a snack. Chocolate chip cookies and Cheetos are calling your name from the kitchen cupboards and your craving for carbs easily overshadows any admonitions from your conscience. After all, it's not like you're scheduled to be on the cover of Shape magazine next month, right? While treating yourself to a little junk food every now and then can be a good thing, you might want to stop and consider what all those carbohydrates are doing to your body.

Listen, we get it – nobody wants to be told what to eat, and we're certainly not about to tell you to cut ties with carbs for good. According to Everyday Health, we need carbs – they're responsible for our bodies' main source of energy. But while some carbohydrates can do your body some serious favors, others can be a total drain on your well-being. With the help of an expert, we're here to help you understand the difference between the two. 

Alicia Galvin is a registered dietitian who works with Carpathia Collaborative, a premier Functional Medicine clinic in Dallas, Texas. In an interview with Mashed, she broke it down like this: "The first thing to distinguish is not all carbs are created equal. Some carbs have a more significant impact on your blood sugar than others, so the type of carb that you eat determines how much of a benefit or pitfall there is on health." Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more.

Steer clear of simple carbs and seek out complex carbs

The key to getting the most out of the carbs you eat is to choose the right ones. Galvin says, "Simple carbs, or refined carbohydrates (like white rice, white bread, sweets, sodas, and added sugars like maple syrup, honey, table sugar, and agave) are much more easily broken down into sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream. They have a more significant impact on raising insulin and blood sugar levels, which over time can cause insulin resistance, inflammation, weight gain, and hormonal imbalances." If you're concerned that you may already have high blood sugar, contact your doctor. Self says symptoms can include headache, fatigue, nausea, confusion, tingling in hands and feet, and more.

Ready for the good news? Some carbs can be your body's best friend – specifically complex carbohydrates like vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Galvin explains, "Complex carbs are carbs that have a lot of fiber – a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down into sugar molecules and actually has great benefit to the gut bacteria. Eating more complex carbs has beneficial effects on the body, like stabilizing blood sugar, helping with bowel regularity and elimination, and enhancing growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut." So, the next time your carb craving strikes, reach for a handful of nuts or load up on veggies and your body will thank you.