Carbohydrate Basics

Do you shun the breadbasket and pick pasta out of minestrone soup? Do you think carbohydrates are sometimes the enemy? Are you a carb counter? Well, the fact is that we can't live without carbohydrates. Once you know how they work in the body and how to choose the most nutritious ones, you'll see that you can have your carbs, maintain good health, and control your weight, too.

Is It Simple or Complex?
How do you know if a food contains simple or complex carbohydrates? The words simple and complex aren't listed on food labels. Some foods, like fruits and vegetables, don't have nutrition labels, and many foods we eat are "combination foods" that provide both simple and complex carbohydrates. If you're trying to keep your intake of simple carbohydrates to a minimum, keep this guideline in mind: The higher the amount of fiber listed, the more complex carbohydrate the food contains. Many whole grains are complex but not high in fiber, though, so also check the ingredients list.
Many people make the mistake
of thinking that carbohydrate means only bread and pasta-and perhaps cereals and rice. Of course these are carbohydrate foods, but they are by no means the lone sources of carbohydrate. All fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrate, and carbs can also be found in some dairy products. In fact, every plant-based food has carbohydrate in it. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants store carbohydrate as their main energy source.

The foods that contain carbohydrate (grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and some dairy) are all quite different from each other. But the one thing they have in common, substantial doses of healthy carbohydrate, is something that humans can't live without.

In this article, we will explore everything about the world of carbs -- the different types of carbs, how the body uses carbs, and how carbohydrates are linked to nutrition and obesity. Let's get started by breaking down carbohydrates to their least common denominators.