This post has been updated since it was originally published to include more expert insight.
In order to promote and support a healthy metabolismit’s vital to evaluate what you eat in a day and acknowledge where you can add more nutrients and ultimately, create a balanced diet. With that said, it’s equally as important to take note of what 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 carb found in many processed snacks and beverages that is best to avoid 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.
The Ultimate Worst Carbohydrate: Added Sugars In Processed Foods
The least healthy type of carbohydrate to eat for a snack is an ultra-processed one that is frequently found in packaged foods such as pastries (think Pop-Tarts, energy bars or bakery goods), Hunnes explains. The reason these types of carbs are not great at any age, let alone over 40, she notes, is because they provide “no nutritional benefit, they are often devoid of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds.” This, she says, is terrible for the metabolism because it “leads to insulin spikes, increases in IGF-1, an inflammatory marker, and increases risk for chronic diseases and deposition (fat storage) of calories in the body.”
Morris agrees, and said she believes that the “worst type of carbohydrates to eat at any age are added sugars,” which are found in sugary drinks, junk food, processed foods, and desserts. “Added sugars just add extra calories without many healthy nutrients,” she says, and points out that too much added sugar in the diet can also increase inflammation in the body; “This impacts the immune system and can increase the risk for many chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.”
Instead of these types of carbs, Hunnes stresses that “we are best off to eat the least processed carbohydrates possible, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, in their natural form unprocessed.” These, she says, are “not harmful for our metabolism and are anti-inflammatory, high in fiber, and help regulate weight.”
Morris agrees, and says that it’s also important to understand the different types of carbs when creating a healthy diet after 40 to reap the most benefits. “There are different types of carbohydrates in the foods we eat so we have to understand that concept first,” she says. “There are simple carbohydrates or simple sugars and there are complex carbohydrates,” she continues.
A few examples of simple carbohydrates that Morris lists are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and lactose (milk sugar). Complex carbohydrates are found in foods with starches and fiber, she explains, and fruits, vegetables, and grains have complex carbohydrates. “Complex carbohydrates take longer to be digested, so they help keep us full longer. They also usually have more vitamins and minerals than foods with simple carbohydrates,” she concludes. The more you know!