These are carbohydrates like white bread, white sugar, white flour pasta, and white rice that have been stripped of their blood-sugar-buffering fiber, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, things both your body and hair are big fans of.
Alternatives: Whole-grain choices like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and bread (especially breads with nuts and seeds), and pastas made with lentil, chickpea, or other beans. Flour is also available in a variety of more complex-carb forms, such as those made from whole-wheat, amaranth, chickpea, and almond.
Simple carbohydrates have the simplest structure compared to other carbs, meaning they’re broken down quickly by the body. These kinds of carbs — which include white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated juices, and sodas — have little to no fiber and little to no nutritional value, leading to blood sugar dysregulation. However, simple carbs can also be found in fruits and vegetables, which pack components like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help slow the breakdown of sugar.
Alternatives: Instead of store-bought juice, try making your own using whole fruits. Swap sugary soda for plain seltzer, water, or drinks made with low-carb, more natural sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit.
Starch is a complex carbohydrate that gets turned into glucose for energy. High-starch foods like pizza, baked goods, and french fries should be avoided or limited, as they have been processed and thus contain less nutrients
Alternatives: Parsnips, quinoa, beans, whole-wheat grains, sweet potatoes, lentils and legumes (like peas). Craving pizza instead of vegetables? Try making your own with whole-wheat dough or even sweet potatoes!
When it comes to carbs, it pays to be complicated. Put simply, complex carbohydrates have a more complicated chemical structure than other carb forms — and they take more time for the body to break down. Their high fiber content, found in whole grains, beans, nuts, and veggies like broccoli, is also key. During the digestive process, soluble fiber combines with water and turns into a gel-like goop, supporting healthy digestion and in turn assisting your gut flora; a win/win for both you and your hair!
When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to choose whole food options and to add some “complexity” to your carbs by ensuring you’re eating them with fiber, protein, or a healthy fat, as this will help buffer how quickly they’re broken down into sugar.
Written by Dr. Kali Olsen, ND