As the main source of energy for your body, carbohydrates are a very important part of what you eat.
Carbohydrates have been in the spotlight ever since diets like the Atkin’s Diet and the South Beach Diet. Currently, the ‘Low Carb’ diet is popular and it too recommends cutting carbs as much as possible.
But, before making any decisions about what foods to include or cut in your diet, it is crucial to learn about carbohydrates. You need to understand what they do for your body and how to identify good carbs from bad carbs.
Why You Need Carbs
Carbohydrates provide all the fuel your body needs to run. Even if you are doing low-intensity activities during the day, your body still needs to keep running. And carbohydrates make sure it does.
It would be impossible for you to function without carbs, even if you want to limit them in your diet. But, carbohydrates can be good or bad for your body.
The reason you want good carbohydrates is because they take much longer for your body to burn. This means small amounts of sugar drip fed over time and you maintain higher energy levels for longer.
Good Carbs and Bad Carbs
All carbohydrates are sugars – the good carbs are complex sugars, the bad carbs are simple sugars.
Complex carbohydrates are strings of sugar that are very difficult to break down. Further, they trap other nutrients like vitamins and minerals in the sugar strings. As they break down over time, these nutrients are also released into your body. This slow break down can provide you with fuel for many hours.
In contrast, bad carbohydrates, are simple sugars. Because their structure is not complex, they break down easily. They also hold little nutrients for your body other than the sugars from which they are made.
Not only does your body break bad carbs down with ease, but it also does so quickly. As a result, what it cannot use is converted to fat and stored in the body.
Staying away from simple carbohydrates is what most healthy diets recommend. Compared to complex carbohydrates, they offer little nutritional value.
Plus, they only last about an hour or so, releasing a lot more sugar in a short amount of time. This will not only make you hungrier faster, but will also cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
How to Eat the Right Carbs
Separating good carbs from bad carbs isn’t as hard as identifying good fats from bad fats. In fact, it’s pretty simple to tell the two apart and often just looking at a product will tell you if it’s healthy or not.
Breads and grains are commonly known to contain high levels of carbohydrates. But, carbs are actually also found in many other foods as well, including fruits and vegetables.
The carbs that come from sugars, potato products, and white breads are more on the bad side of carbs. In comparison, there are healthier alternatives such as rice, whole grain products, beans and vegetables.
The first place to start for the right carbs is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Apart from good carbs, they contain a variety of other nutrients needed by your body.
Next, it is a good idea to cut the white bread and white flour products out of your diet. Replace them with whole wheat or multigrain options instead.
Simple sugars are very prevalent in confectionery, soft drinks and similar products. These can add a lot of bad carbs to your body with no nutritional value. And remember, if the carbs aren’t used, they will simply store as fat.
Learning the difference between good and bad carbs is very important if you wish to have a healthy diet. It is not good for your body to cut out carbohydrates completely—in fact, it’s not a good idea at all!
Eating a healthy and balanced diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains is the way to go. They will take longer to break down in the body – making you feel full longer – so you’ll eat less!