What? There are good and bad carbs? I Thought all carbs are the same!
Sorry to tell you, but not all carbs are the same and they should not be created equal.
If you want your low carb diet to work, you should educate yourself so that you know the difference between the two and know which carbs you should eat less of and which ones you should continue to eat. First, we should look at what a carbohydrate is.
Carbohydrates are naturally occurring sugars, starches, and fiber found in food and are the main source of the body’s energy functions. Carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules linked together. They are essential because when digested they are broken down into glucose which supplies our bodies with the fuel to provide needed energy. Fiber does not get broken down however and passes through the body and excreted. When we are carb deficient, we feel weak, like we have no energy…which in essence, is what happens in our cells.
If you’re planning to cut down, It’s important to learn which types of carbs to cut down on if you want your diet to work. Once you know them, you’ll be able to make changes that support a healthy lifestyle. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because if you cut out all carbs, you are setting yourself up for reduced energy, nutrient deficiency, and low exercise performance.
Now let’s take a closer look so you can tell the difference between a good carb and a bad carb…
To understand more about good vs. bad carbs we should first look at the fiber content of our food. Fiber?…what does fiber have to do with carbs? Foods that are higher in fiber are foods that take a longer time to be broken down in digestion like vegetables, fruits and whole-grain breads, beans, peas, bran products, nuts and seeds- these would be examples of good carbs and they keep you fuller longer. Fiber also helps to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in your body. Those foods that are low in fiber are considered to have bad carbs which are in more processed foods like white rice, and sweet bakery items made with white flour like cakes and cookies. Reading labels is a good way to start learning about which products are high and low in fiber. By knowing this, you are on your way to knowing more about carbs! In order for you to make smart choices, you should know the different types of carbohydrates.
Carbs that are whole or unprocessed would generally be considered to be a good carb choice. They are considered to be generally healthy foods which include vegetables, fruits, legumes, oats, beans, whole grains and brown rice. These kinds of natural fiber-rich foods promote healthy digestion by helping to keep the bowels moving
If you’ve ever been told to eliminate carbs from your diet because you should lose some weight, it is probably the refined or processed carbs in which they are referring. Refined carbs have been associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. It is these kinds of carbs that the natural fiber has been stripped out and usually lack other nutrients and appear white. Some examples of processed carbs are, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, white bread, white rice, white pasta, potato chips, and pretzels. These processed carbs tend to cause spikes in blood sugar levels that lead to craving more of these types of foods in a short amount of time.
There will be some nutritional labels that will use tricky wording to make you think that the item is a healthier choice so make sure that you are a well-informed consumer and read the labels very carefully!
Here is a handy list of good carbs that are highly recommended:
- Whole fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains: brown rice, barley, oats, etc.
- Beans, legumes
Here is a list of bad carbs that you should try to avoid:
- Juices sweetened with sugar
- Sugary drinks- carbonated water, soda, etc.
- White bread
- Ice cream
- Milk chocolate
- Processed foods
Here’s a summary table to help you differentiate between good and bad carbs
|Good carbs||Bad Carbs|
|1||From natural sources||From processed sources|
|2||No refined sugar||Lots of refined sugar|
|3||High nutrient value||Low nutrient value|
|4||Low sodium content||Very high sodium content|
|5||No refined grains||A lot of products have refined and unhealthy grains.|
|6||Low saturated fat||High saturated fat|
|7||Little to no cholesterol||Very high cholesterol|
|8||No trans fat||Lots of trans fat|
|9||Little to moderate calories||Small portions of bad carbs contain very high calories.|