Health experts agree: This is the one type of snack you should stop eating (it causes inflammation!)
This post has been updated since it was originally published to include more expert insights.
For the purpose of promoting and supporting a healthy metabolismit is important to evaluate what you eat in a day and recognize where you can add more nutrients and ultimately create A balanced diet. Additionally, it’s just as important to pay attention to which snacks make you feel sluggish, have less energy, or cause inflammation and indigestion.
We checked in with health experts to learn more about one common type of carbohydrate found in many processed snacks and drinks that are best avoided for a healthy metabolism and optimal energy. Read on for tips and suggestions from Dana Ellis HunnesPhD, MPH, RD, Registered Dietitian and Melissa Morris, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and ISSN Certified Sports Nutritionist.
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The ultimate worst carb: added sugars in processed foods
The least healthy type of carbs to snack on are the ultra-processed ones often found in packaged foods like baked goods (think Pop-Tarts, energy bars, or baked goods), Hunnes explains. The reason these types of carbs aren’t good at any age, let alone over 40, she notes, is because they provide “no nutritional benefit, and are often devoid of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.” This, she says, is terrible for the metabolism because it “leads to spikes in insulin, increases in IGF-1, an inflammatory marker, and increases the risk of chronic disease and the deposition (storage of fat) of calories in the body.”
Morris agrees and says she believes “the worst type of carbohydrate to eat at any age is added sugars,” which are found in sugary drinks, junk food, processed foods and desserts. “Added sugars just add extra calories without a lot of healthy nutrients,” she says, noting that too much added sugar in the diet can also increase inflammation in the body; “This affects the immune system and can increase the risk for many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.”
Instead of these types of carbohydrates, Hunnes emphasizes that “it’s best to eat as few processed carbohydrates as possible, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, in their natural, unprocessed form.” They, she says, “are not harmful to our metabolism and are anti-inflammatory, high in fiber and help with weight management.”
Morris agrees and says it’s also important to understand the different types of carbohydrates when creating a healthy diet after age 40 to get the most benefits. “There are different types of carbohydrates in the foods we eat so we need to understand that concept first,” she says. “There are simple carbohydrates or simple sugars and complex carbohydrates,” she continues.
A few examples of simple carbohydrates that Morris cites are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and lactose (milk sugar). Complex carbohydrates are found in foods with starch and fiber, she explains, and fruits, vegetables and grains have complex carbohydrates. “Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, so they help us stay full longer. They also tend to have more vitamins and minerals than foods with simple carbohydrates,” she concludes. The more you know!