What are Refined Carbs? Are They Good or Bad?

Many of the whole foods that we consume are highly rich in carbs. Not to mention, they are super nutritious and extremely healthy. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Carbohydrate-rich healthy foods include vegetables, fruits, root vegetables, legumes, and whole grains like oats and barley. 

However, all carbs are not equally beneficial for health. Refined carbs neither have many nutrients nor fibers. As a result, consuming refined carbs can drastically increase the risk of many diseases such as heart issues, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Even nutrition experts suggest that you should cut on the consumption of refined carbs. Despite the warnings, refined carbs end up to be the main source of most of the dietary carbs. Here is an in-depth explanation of what refined carbs are and whether they are good or bad for our health. 

More on Refined Carbs

You recognize refined carbs as processed or simple carbs. You can categorize them into two main types as sugars and refined grains. Sugars include all the processed and refined sugars in your diet such as agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and sucrose or table sugar. Refined grains include all the grains with their nutritious and fibrous elements removed. One source of such grains is white flour prepared from refined wheat.

You should note that refined carbs lack any vitamins, minerals, and fibers. They have zero calorific value and a high glycemic index. You can digest them quickly. This implies a rapid spike in the levels of insulin and blood sugar after every such meal.

Foods with a high glycemic index increase the risk of many diseases and make you prone to overeating habits. Despite these known facts, refined grains and sugars sadly constitute a large portion of our total carbohydrate intake. 

The foods that you eat daily and enjoy deliciously such as white rice, pastries, white bread, white flour, sodas, snacks, sweets, pasta, added sugars, and breakfast cereals are the main dietary sources of these refined sugars and carbs. All sorts of processed beverages and foods have some portions of these refined carbs and sugars.

Refined Foods are Low in Fibers and Micronutrients

Whole grains are rich in micronutrients and dietary fibers. They have three main parts including bran, germ, and endosperm. Bran represents the hard, outer layer of the whole grains. It contains fibers, minerals, and antioxidants. The nutrient-rich core of the whole grains is called the germ. It contains carbs, fats, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. The middle layer that contains mostly carbs with a small amount of protein is called the endosperm.

The germ and bran are the most nutritious sections of the whole grains. They are the source of many nutrients including iron, magnesium, B vitamins, fiber, phosphorus, selenium, and manganese. The refining process removes the germ and bran from the whole grains along with all the essential nutrients.

As a result, you get refined grains with no vitamins, minerals, or fibers. These grains only have rapidly digestible starch with trace amounts of proteins. Some manufacturers try to enrich their refined products with synthetic vitamins to reconcile some of the lost nutrients. However, synthetic vitamins cannot be as good as natural ones. Therefore, it is always a better choice to get your nutrients from naturally occurring whole foods.

Refined foods have low fiber content. As already specified, low-fiber diets can make you more prone to diseases like heart issues, obesity, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and various digestive issues. 

Refined Foods Can Induce Overeating

A large portion of our existing population is either obese or overweight. The main reason for this spike is attributed to the intake of many refined carbs. Refined foods are low in fiber and digest quickly. These foods when taken in excess can cause major swings in the levels of sugar in the blood.  

Foods with a high glycemic index can induce overeating by promoting short-term fullness. It can last about one hour or even less. Foods with a lower glycemic index foster a sustained feeling of long-term fullness. It can be about 2-3 hours.

Whenever we ingest refined carbs, our blood sugar levels start to drop after an hour or two. This response stimulates the sections of our brain responsible for reward and cravings and promotes hunger. As a result, you crave for more food and overeat.

Long-term studies suggest that ingestion of refined carbs can increase belly fat over a period of five years. Refined carbs can cause inflammation in your body. Experts even speculate that refined carbs can be the primary dietary cause of obesity and leptin resistance.

Refined Carbs Cause Heart Disease and Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are two incredibly common diseases affecting a major section of the population worldwide. Patients of type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop other heart diseases. Studies suggest that higher consumption of refined foods is directly connected to increased insulin resistance and higher levels of blood sugar that are primary symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Refined foods increase triglyceride levels in the blood that can further lead to type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. A study conducted on Chinese adults confirmed that more than 85% of the total dietary carbohydrate came from refined carbs, primarily refined wheat products and white rice. Another study suggests that people who consume refined carbs in excess are 2-3 times more prone to get heart diseases.

Therefore, you should not eat refined carbs in excess. With that said, you should also remember that all carbs are not bad. If your doctors have not recommended a carb-restricted diet, you should include the healthy foods containing carbs in your meals.