What Are Refined Carbohydrates?

refined carbohydratesSo what are refined carbohydrates and how do they affect your health? Refined carbohydrates are essentially carbohydrates that have gone through a process where some of the nutrients have been removed and you’re left with only the parts of the food that are very easily digested.

They Have Less Nutrients

Take rice for example. Brown rice has a layer of what is called bran around. Bran is high in fiber which allows your blood sugar levels to not rise so quickly. What some food companies do is process or refine it in a way removes the bran leaving you with white rice which only has the easily digestible parts of the rice that raise your blood sugar levels quickly.

loaf of bread

Not only does the refining process remove the fiber from carbohydrates but other important nutrients like selenium, folic acid, vitamins E and B6, choline, chromium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, sodium and potassium.

Before carbohydrates are refined they are called “whole grains” and once they are refined they are “refined grains”. The practice of refining carbohydrates is extremely common making them a large part of many people’s diet which poses a major health risk.

A study done at Louisiana State University found that people who eat refined grains tend to weigh more than people who eat whole grains. Not only do refined grains cause you to weigh more but they can also increase your risk for developing major diseases.

They Increase Diabetes Risk

There are many kinds of starchy carbohydrates but since I mentioned rice I will discuss a study the compared white rice and brown rice. This study was done at Harvard University and was designed to see if there was a connection between brown or white and type 2 diabetes.

loafs of bread

  • This was a very large study involving 39,765 men and 157,463 women who had their diets analyzed by the researchers and what they found was that eating white rice was associated with a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than eating brown rice.
  • They determined that eating brown rice instead of white rice lowered the risk for developing diabetes by 16%.
  • They also determined that eating whole grains in general instead of refined grains lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes by 36%.

This study strongly suggests that brown rice is healthier than white rice.

A study done by the Inter-Medical Group in Florida also looked into the harmful effects of refined carbohydrates as they relate to type 2 diabetes in the United States. This study theorized that the reason type 2 diabetes is such a problem now is because people eat more refined carbohydrates than they use to. Researchers took into account data that had been collected between the years of 1909 and 1997, a period of 88 years.

What they found was that as corn syrup, which is also a refined carbohydrate made from corn, became a larger part of the American diet diabetes became more prevalent. Corn syrup is also a part of high fructose corn syrup as you may have guessed which is put into a lot of foods and beverages.

They also found that fiber lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes just as the last study did. This study helps confirm that refined carbohydrates can be bad for your health.

Whole Grains Increase Lifespan

Europeans are known to have diets high in whole grain bread and not as much white bread which is made from refined grains. A large study done at the University of Minnesota wanted to see if people of the European country of Norway who ate a lot of whole grain bread were healthier than those who did not. This was also a large study that involved 16,933 men and 16,915 women who were asked to report the kinds of bread they ate and how much they ate.

whole grain loaf

  • Researchers found that people who ate more whole grain bread were less likely to be smokers, were more physically active and had better cholesterol levels than people who ate white bread.
  • They also found that even when you adjust for these lifestyle differences between the two groups, people who ate whole grain bread lived longer.

This study further shows the advantages of eating whole grains.

Whole grain products tend to not be as sweet as refined grains but they are definitely healthier. They can help you control your weight, reduce your risk for disease and help you live longer.


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