The Difference Between Whole And Refined Carbs

The amount of carbs one should consume on a daily basis has long been widely contested. On the one hand, our dietary guidelines recommend that we get half of our daily calories from carbs, while some experts warn of the risk of consuming too many carbs for a prolonged period of time (via Healthline). Regardless of which side of the debate you look at, however, our bodies still need to consume carbs in order to survive. But what exactly are carbs and what can they do for you?

According to experts at Healthline, carbs are molecules that act as one of the main sources of energy for the body, alongside protein and fat. There are three different types of dietary carbs: sugars, starches, and fiber. As it turns out, most carbs can be broken down into glucose and used as fuel, but they can also be turned into fat and used for energy at a later date.

Refined carbs contain less nutrients

The main difference between whole and refined carbs is the way in which they're processed. According to Self, refined carbs are highly processed, which means that they're stripped of most of their naturally produced nutrients. That's because whole carbs, or grains, remain fully intact after being processed, while refined grains have the bran and germ of the grain removed during processing, leaving only the starchy endosperm behind.

Since the bran and germ contain many of a grain's inherent nutrients, refined grains are relatively lacking in many of the key vitamins and minerals that whole grains contain, like iron and the B vitamins niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. However, many experts agree that fiber is the most concerning nutrient lost during processing, considering how many people don't get enough of it and how important it is to digestive health. That's why it's important to eat more whole carbs and consume refined carbs in moderation. "Eating a few refined grains every day along with a healthy diet and at least half of your grain intake as whole grains is fine," board-certified health and wellness coach Kim Larson told Self.