Foods that have been processed and stripped of their nutritional values are known as refined foods. White bread, white sugar and some cereals are among the examples of refined foods.
Eat a balanced, healthful diet comprised of whole foods, including fresh vegetables and fruits, and minimize the intake of processed or refined food products.
Refined Foods Explained
Refinement is the process of stripping food from its natural process, meaning that refined foods can be lacking in nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. Refinement can reduce or eliminate nutritional values completely and even interfere with digestion. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, refined grains are milled, which is a process removing bran and germ of the grain, leaving behind starch.
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In a June 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, refined sugars were linked to mood swings, fatigue and depression. Refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and little or no nutritional value, which leads to blood sugar spikes followed by crashes. When food is stripped of almost all fiber, the sugar is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Because complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, they offer a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Examples of Refined Grains
Refined grains, for example, have been processed so that the whole grain is no longer intact. During this process, vitamins, minerals and fiber may be eliminated from the grain. When fiber is removed from food, sugar is more quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Consuming abundant refined grains may lead to unwanted weight gain, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Eating any sort of carbohydrate ups blood sugar levels, while consuming refined carbohydrates floods the bloodstream immediately with sugar, which ultimately triggers insulin to clear the sugar. The American Heart Association explains that certain foods such as carbs that contain a high amount of simple sugars cause blood sugar levels to quickly rise.
These types of refined carbs with high sugar levels may be worse than other carbs, which is why it is often recommended to opt for whole grains instead, explains the American Heart Association. White rice is an example of a refined grain that has had its outer layer removed, while brown rice is a whole grain.
Refined Foods Effects on Health
A diet high in refined carbs and sugar can potentially put you at risk for serious conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. The American Heart Association explains that refined sugars also raise triglyceride levels and may increase your risk of fatty liver disease, cardiovascular problems such as coronary disease and Type 2 diabetes.
It's also a good idea to be mindful to steer clear of foods high in hidden refined sugar. For example, fruit juice lacks dietary fiber, meaning that your body absorbs the sugar within minutes. Instead, eat fiber-rich whole fruits, so the sugar is gradually absorbed into your bloodstream.
Read more: What are Refined Sugars?
Choose Healthier Grains and Carbs
Opt for better health by choosing brown rice and whole grain bread or pasta, rather than refined white rice, white pasta, white sugar or white flour. The American Heart Association links these foods to medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and inflammatory disorders.
Check nutrition labels carefully. For example, white bread is high in simple carbs and sugar, and often so low in fiber that it elevates blood sugar levels, triggering spikes in insulin with its high glycemic index, explains Harvard Health Publishing.
Try to minimize the consumption of the following examples of refined carbs and refined grains:
- white bread
- breakfast cereals
- white rice
- flavored yogurt
- baked potato chips
- sports drinks
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Glycemic Index for 60+ Foods"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative "
- The American Heart Association: "Carbohydrates"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What a Healthy Weight Loss Plan Really Looks Like"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar"
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