Slow and steady wins the health race when it comes to carbohydrates. Although all carbohydrates are closely related chemically, they're metabolized differently. Nutritionists make the distinction between carbohydrates that are quickly burned for energy and carbs the body breaks down slowly.

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"Fast" carbs, found in processed foods, refined sugar, white flour and syrups, may produce an instant sugar high, but they also cause a spike in blood sugar. "Slow" carbs, found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, deliver a steady supply of energy without a blood sugar spike.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center ( in Cincinnati recently released data indicating that slow carbs may also help ward off some chronic diseases; slow carbs increase levels of a hormone believed to protect against many cancers, cardiovascular disease and hardening of the arteries.