I don’t always get it right. Especially when daughter-in-law brings over delicious Fall treats, or, your Mom makes the best apple pie on the planet. Thanks Mom!
But a recent discussion with a friend and my daughter got me thinking about how much I know – or don’t know – about ‘good’ carbs and ‘bad’ carbs. I thought I knew what good carbs were, so I had to do a little poking around just to make sure.
So here’s to all of you who need a fresh reminder….I found this at GoodCarbs.org and thought I’d pass it along.
What are ‘good’ carbs?
The simplest answer to this question is this: good carbs are unprocessed carbohydrates in their ‘all natural’ state – or very close to their natural state. In other words they have been minimally altered by man or machine, or not altered at all. Most diet and health experts agree that green vegetables are the ‘ultimate’ good carb foods. In fact, most ‘leafy’ fibrous vegetables and many fruits are considered among the best carbs to eat. Beans and legumes are also generally included on the ‘good carbs’ list, as are many raw nuts and seeds. Finally, whole-grain foods – including whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas – are considered by most experts to be among the good carbohydrate foods (although there is some disagreement over this).
Good carbs generally have these healthy characteristics:
- high in fiber: helps you stay full longer (and avoid overeating), provides sustained energy, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps to remove toxins from the body
- low glycemic index: stabilizes blood sugar levels and insulin production
- high in nutrients: natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, & other phytonutrients promote health and help to prevent chronic disease
- low ‘energy-density‘ (except nuts & seeds): helps you feel full without a lot of calories, provides sustained energy, promotes healthy weight loss and long-term weight maintenance
- greater ‘thermic effect’: naturally stimulates metabolism and promotes fat loss
Many popular weight loss diets incorporate good carbs into their eating plans because they are so effective at lowering insulin production and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Also, because of their high fiber-content, good carbs make you feel fuller and help you to avoid overeating – a major problem for many people trying to lose weight safely!
To sum it up, the following food types are generally considered to be good carbs and should make up most or all of your carb intake:
- whole vegetables
- whole fruits
- whole cereal grains
Note: Some nutritionists include ‘healthy’ dairy products like low-fat milk and low-sugar yogurt on the list, but there is much disagreement over this so we’ll leave dairy foods off for now.
What are ‘bad’ carbs…
In general, bad carbs are refined, processed carbohydrate foods that have had all or most of their natural nutrients and fiber removed in order to make them taste better, easier to transport, and more ‘consumer friendly.’ Most baked goods, white breads, pastas, snack foods, candies, and non-diet soft drinks fit into this category. Bleached, enriched ‘white’ flour and white sugar – along with an array of artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives – are the most common ingredients used to make ‘bad carb’ foods.
One of the big reasons why bad carbs are harmful is because the human body is not able to process them very well. Our hormonal and digestive systems developed over the course of millions of years. Yet only in the past 100 years or so have humans had access to these highly-processed carbohydrates in abundance. Our bodies simply didn’t have time to adapt and evolve to handle the rapid changes in food processing and diet.
Because of this, most of the processed carbs we eat wreak havoc on our natural hormone levels. Insulin production, especially, is ‘thrown out of wack’ as the body attempts to process the huge amounts of starches and simple sugars contained in a typical ‘bad carb’-based meal. This leads to dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose levels – a big reason why you often feel lethargic after eating high-sugar, unhealthy meals.
Also, it’s important to realize that many processed carb foods provide large amounts of ‘empty’ calories – calories with little or no nutritional-value. Eat enough of these empty calories and your body will quickly turn them into extra bodyfat, as anyone with a weight problem already knows all too well!
The regular consumption of large amounts of high-sugar, low-fiber, nutritionally-poor ‘bad carbs’ eventually leads to a much higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other long-term problems. It’s becoming more and more clear that the abundance of processed carbs and unhealthy trans-fats found in so many foods is a major cause – if not the biggest cause – of many of our modern chronic health problems!