Many people believe that carbohydrates are all the same. However, according to an article in Psychology Today, carbohydrates are actually categorized into two groups: fast and slow. The article explains that different types of carbohydrates have their own effect on the human body, so it is important to discern between the two types. Knowing the difference between fast and slow carbohydrates can help individuals monitor their diets, attend to their health needs and even enhance weight loss.
White bread is a popular culprit in the fast carbs category. Psychology Today says “Processed foods that contain refined sugar and white flour are fast carbohydrates.” White bread is, of course, made of white flour, which has little nutritional value. The white flour found in bread causes a blood sugar spike, which can be beneficial for athletes who are about to play in a sports game, or for people who wish to get a quick energy boost. It is not, however, useful for people who are inactive or sedentary, because if these carbs are not burned quickly, the body will convert and store them into fat. Another problem with white bread is that the energy people obtain from it is not long lasting, so the boost will come and go quickly, causing individuals to feel hungry again.
Baked potatoes are high on the glycemic index, which means they are fast carbs. The Mayo Clinic explains that the GI is a way to measure how certain foods (mainly carbs) affect blood sugar. Foods high on the GI scale mean they elevate blood sugar, whereas low GI foods are more steadily broken down in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, baked potatoes range in the “70 and Up” category of the GI, which means baked potatoes give people a fast recharge or refuel, but do not sustain the fullness for very long. Satiation is prolonged with foods that are lower on the GI, known as slow carbs, which include fiber-rich foods. Even when baked potatoes are skinless and plain (hold the butter and salt, please!), their composition still remains high on the GI.
Sugars are fast carbs, so if the ultimate goal is to maintain a low GI diet, stay away from cookies, candies, cakes and other sweet treats. Other types of foods contain sugars, which consumers may not be aware of unless they read packaging and ingredient labels. Cereals, juice, muffins and pancakes are examples of foods that may contain high levels of refined sugar. According to Medline Plus, refined sugars are known as empty calories because they do not offer nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. A healthier alternative is to eat foods that are naturally sweetened, such as fruit.