Everything you need to know about consuming carbs – plus a healthy pancake recipe!
Adriana Urbina is an In The Know Culinary Contributor. Follow her on Instagram and visit her website to learn more.
Carbs are often portrayed negatively in the media, but the truth is that not all carbs are created equal. Keeping the right carbs in our diet actually gives us usable energy, aids healthy digestion, and helps maintain a healthy weight. On the other hand, eating too many refined carbohydrates increases our risk of chronic inflammation, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
So how do we know which carbs to choose?
The first thing to know is that the main function of carbohydrates is to provide us with energy. Complex carbohydrates contain fiber which promotes gut health and helps us manage weight and lower cholesterol. Both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and help us avoid spikes, allowing us to maintain more consistent blood sugar levels.
Soluble fiber slows digestion by increasing digestive transit time, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools to promote digestive regularity. When adding extra fiber to your diet, be sure to do it slowly to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort and remember to increase your water intake.
Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars during digestion and absorbed into the blood as glucose. Insulin then allows glucose to enter cells as an energy source. Depending on your body’s needs, any unused glucose is either stored in the liver or converted to fat for later use.
Types of carbohydrates
There are two main categories of carbohydrates: simple and complex. These terms refer to the chemical structure of the molecules that make up the food.
Simple carbs are small compounds that break down quickly, providing a quick burst of energy when consumed.
Sources of simple carbohydrates include:
- Fruits and honey
- malt sugar
As a source of simple carbs, fruit naturally contains sugar, but it’s also a good source of fiber (unlike most processed foods with added sweeteners). For this reason, fruit does not cause such a sharp spike in blood sugar. Plus, fruit provides more than just energy — it’s a source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Unlike simple carbs, complex carbs are larger compounds that take longer to break down, slowing digestion and absorption and preventing extreme changes in our blood sugar levels.
Sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Whole grain brown rice
- Wild rice
Since these foods are good sources of fiber, they also help you manage your weight and support your cardiovascular health.
Below you will find an easy recipe for buckwheat pancakes. They are super light and have a tender texture and nutty flavor that will help you start your day full of energy.
Makes 10 pancakes
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- The zest of a lemon
- 1 1/4 cup milk (either dairy or non-dairy)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
- 4 tablespoons ghee, melted, plus more for the pan
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1 large egg
- Mix the milk and lemon zest and let stand for five minutes. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
- Whisk the egg and vanilla into the milk mixture.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the milk and melted butter mixture into the well and use a fork to stir until you no longer see any lumps of flour.
- Heat a large skillet (or griddle) over medium heat. The pan is ready if when you splash a little water on the surface of the pan, the water dances around the pan and eventually evaporates.
- Lightly brush the pan with melted butter. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the batter into the skillet. Gently roll out the dough into a 4 inch circle.
- When the edges seem dry and bubbles start to appear and burst on the top surface of the crepe, flip it over. It takes about two minutes.
- Once flipped, cook another 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked in the middle.
- Serve immediately with hot syrup, ghee or one of your favorite pancake toppings.
If you liked this story, find out why you should eat more fiber here!