Carbohydrates: complex vs simple and how to increase your intake of carbohydrates for energy!

Simple carbohydratesCarbohydrates are one of the best sources of energy but what is the difference between a complex carbohydrate and a simple carbohydrate?  Simple carbohydrates are rapidly digested and contain very few nutrients, are low in fiber and can cause ups and downs in our energy.  Examples of simple carbohydrates are things like sugars (brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup, and maple syrup), processed foods like soft drinks, candy, cakes, and bagels.  I think you get the picture here.  Simple carbohydrates can cause mood swings and sugar crashes. 

Complex carbohydrates not only provide a lasting energy but they are necessary in order for your body to remain healthy.  These carbohydrates keep your blood sugar steady and contain fiber (which promotes good digestion), vitamins and minerals.  Complex carbohydrates are easily found in plant foods of green vegetables, whole grains like rice, quinoa and oats, beans and lentils.  These complex carbs have a long shelf life and also contain essential enzymes along with iron.  Other, less well-known grains, that might be worth experimenting with are amaranth, pearled or hulled barley, bulgur, kamut, millet, and spelt.  All of these grains contain nutrients including a variety of B vitamins, vitamin E and some contain linoleic acid.  In fact, brown rice is extremely high in fiber and extremely low in sodium, and contains 80% complex carbohydrates.

The following information on the Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Energy was put together by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, enjoy!

  1. Reduce or eliminate caffeine – the ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar ups and downs, making mood swings more frequent.
  2. Drink water – most Americans are chronically dehydrated.  Before you go to sugar and caffeine, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens.  Caution:  soft drinks are now America’s number one source of added sugar.
  3. Eat dark leafy green vegetables – green is associated with spring, the time of renewal and refreshing, vital energy.  Greens are full of vitamins and nutrients and great for improving circulation, lifting the spirit, purifying the blood and strengthening the immune system.  Broccoli, collard, Bok choy, kale, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, arugula and dandelion greens are some of the many to choose from.
  4. Use gentle sweets – avoid sugar and chemicalized artificial sweeteners.  Use gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar and stevia.  Also eat sweet vegetables such as yams, carrots and beets.
  5. Get physical activity – start with simple activities, like walking or yoga – start with 10 minutes a day and increase.
  6. Get more sleep and rest and relaxation – when you are tired or stressed, your body will crave energy.  These cravings are often a result of being sleep-deprived, going to bed late, waking up early, for months and years on end.
  7. Evaluate the amount of animal food you eat – eating too much meat, dairy, chicken, and eggs can lead to low energy.   So can eating too little!  experiment.  Respect your body’s individuality.
  8. Take time for yourself – find activities that restore your energy, such as a walk, a bath, a museum, a movie or whatever you enjoy, and schedule a weekly date with yourself to do these things!
  9. Get in touch with your spirituality – we are spiritual beings in a physical world.  Find ways to get in touch with your spiritual side, be it meditating, dancing, drawing, going to church or temple or being in nature.
  10. Get rid of relationships that drain you – people can drain you of your energy.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad, but it is good to notice who drains you and why.  See if you can transform those relationships by communicating and setting boundaries, or end the relationship.

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