Good Carbohydrate vs Bad Carbohydrate: Not All Carbs Are Bad
Carbohydrates are a key ingredient in the diet; comprising sugars, starchy carbs and dietary fiber. Recent studies suggest that carbohydrates can affect the risk of certain diseases such as heart disorders and diabetes. But not all carbohydrates are bad. So, how should one choose the right kind of carbohydrates? What are good and bad carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Carbohydrate-containing foods provide your body with glucose when digested. 1 gram of carbohydrate in the form of starch or sugar provides 3.75kcal (16kJ). Thus, our body requires carbohydrate to produce energy which sustains a diverse array of bodily functions.
Are Carbs Good or Bad?
There are two types of carbohydrates – complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. So, when people say bad carbohydrates, they are referring to the simple carbohydrates. Our body digests simple carbohydrates quickly and they have a high glycemic index. This means that they lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels on digestion. Simple carbohydrates are naturally present in foods such as fruits, milk and milk products. Processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups and soft drinks also contain simple carbohydrates.
Good carbohydrates are also known as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are made up of three or more sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. These carbs break down much slowly due to its chemical structure, high fiber and high nutrient content. It is slowly digested by the body which prevents blood sugar spikes. It is present in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Both simple and complex carbohydrates convert into glucose in the body and are used as energy. Glucose is used by all cells of our body as a source of energy that sustains all bodily functions. Our body stores unused glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later use.
Most carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates and naturally occurring sugars, rather than processed or refined sugars, which do not have the vitamins, minerals, or fiber essential for the body.
But, how to choose the right carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are primarily a source of energy for our body. Hence, it is necessary to know which carbohydrates foods you must choose. So here are some tips!
Choose starchy foods
Starch can be found in corn, potatoes, pumpkin, green peas, dried beans, whole bread and bread products, cereals and grains. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and provide a range of nutrients in our diet. Starches are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Include high-fiber foods
Choose unprocessed high-fiber foods with no added sugar and fat. Fiber slows the rate of sugar absorption which helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Some examples of fiber-rich foods are:
- Fruits such as bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries.
- Dark green vegetables
- Beans and Legumes
- Whole grains
Pro Tip: When you go out to buy a product, look for bread, crackers, pasta, and other products, that list, whole grains as their first ingredient.
Avoid Excess sugar
Avoid foods that contain excess sugar. It’s good to get your carbohydrate from natural sugars like fresh fruits and vegetables. You should avoid refined and added sugars as much as possible. These foods provide “empty” calories, which mean they’re high in calories but low in nutrients.
However, if you suddenly restrict a number of carbohydrates you eat, just because you want to lose weight, you might experience symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headaches, constipation. But an excess of carbohydrates is also not good. Excess carbohydrate intake may increase gastrointestinal distress and lead to obesity. So, follow an overall healthy dietary pattern rather than just restricting your carbohydrates.
Here are simple guidelines to keep in mind while eating carbs!
- Focus on natural simple sugars (fresh fruit) over refined simple sugars (white sugar).
- Eat more complex carbohydrates (vegetables/legumes/grains) than simple carbohydrates (fruit).
- Eat more starchy vegetables (squash/potatoes) than grains (rice/oats/buckwheat).
- Focus on whole grains (rice/oats) and limit food made from flours (noodles/crackers).
- Eat more fibrous carbohydrates (vegetables) than starchy carbohydrates (grains/legumes).
Due to the increasing popularity of low-carb diets, many people assume carbs are bad. Remember, carbohydrates are not unhealthy; you just need to consume the right carbohydrates and in the right amounts. We hope now it’s easy for you to separate the good carbs from the bad carbs. Let us know your favourite way of consuming healthy carbs in the comments section below.