For good health, it's best to avoid refined carbs as much as possible. Carbs that have been refined digest very quickly, which can lead to surges in your blood sugar level. You may find that after a blood sugar surge, your energy drops. You may also experience food cravings, which, if you're trying to shed some pounds, can hinder your success. Learn which carbs are refined and scratch them off your grocery list forever.
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Generally, anything that comes in a box or bag -- think chips, crackers and pretzels -- has been refined. During processing, the grains used to make many snack foods are stripped of the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. The bran and germ contain most of the nutrients, including heart-healthy fiber. In addition, snack foods are almost always loaded with sodium, and many are high in fat, including unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Avoid snack foods, or look for varieties made from whole grains.
White Bread and Pasta
Just like snack foods, white breads and pastas are made with refined grains. In fact, unless a whole grain is listed as the first ingredient, it's a refined-grain product. The glycemic index is a measure of how a carbohydrate-containing food will affect your blood sugar -- a food with a rating of 100 will raise your blood sugar the most, while a food with a rating of 1 will raise it the least. Refined-carb foods like white bread and pasta have notoriously high glycemic index ratings. For example, white bread gets a score of 73, while 100 percent whole-grain bread gets a score of 51. Choose whole-grain breads and pastas whenever possible to keep your blood sugar level steady.
Sodas, energy drinks, sweetened ice tea and many fruit juices are made with added refined sugars that will do a number on your blood sugar. With no nutrients to speak of, drinking a soda is like drinking straight sugar. One hundred percent fruit juices are a better choice because they offer vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, but they are still high in carbohydrates and can still negatively affect your blood sugar. Especially if you are diabetic, eating the whole fruit is always a better option. Whether you are diabetic or not, avoiding sodas, energy drinks and sweetened teas is a healthy choice.
Other Refined Carbs
Anything made with white or all-purpose flour is a refined carb and bound to spike your blood sugar; and many baked goods have added sugars to make matters worse. White rice, instant oatmeal, most pancake and waffle mixes and most desserts can be considered refined carbs because they are or are made with refined grains and may contain added sugar. Sweeteners such as table sugar, honey, agave, corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup and brown sugar are also considered refined carbs.