Carbs often get a bad reputation, and there is a lot of confusion about good versus bad carbs and what we should be eating, especially if weight loss is the goal.
So what are carbohydrates and why do we need them?
According to dietitian Kirsten Ude, carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient, along with protein and fats, found in a variety of foods and drinks.
“We have three main types of carbohydrates,” explains O’Day. They are fiber, starches, and sugars… Fiber and starches are complex carbohydrates, while sugars are simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and help fuel our nervous system, muscles, and organs. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates are digested faster and send instant bursts of glucose (energy) into the bloodstream, and they often have little nutritional value.”
While low-carb diets are popular for weight loss, cutting out all carbohydrates can cause low energy and may lead to nutrient deficiencies. This is why it is important to eat a balanced diet from all five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy products) to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to function properly.
The nutritionist explained the differences between good carbs versus bad carbs, and why is a balanced diet important to our health? Not all carbohydrates are created equal and some are healthier than others. The carbohydrates in plant foods (complex carbohydrates) are “good” carbohydrates, and are often packed with nutrients such as bran and fiber that can help improve digestion and support metabolism.
To reap the benefits of carbohydrates, try to choose carbohydrates that are loaded with nutrients such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; These are complex carbs, or “good” carbs, says O’Day.
Some examples of “good” carbohydrates include:
Sweet potatoes (ideal with the skin on)
– the banana
Nuts and seeds
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts)
What are “bad” carbohydrates?
Simple or “bad” carbs (also known as refined or processed carbs) are sugars that are quickly broken down and used as energy, O’Day says.
During processing, the whole grain’s bran and seeds are removed, which also removes the fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, meaning these foods have little nutritional value.
These types of carbohydrates are often described as bad, but not all simple carbohydrates are unhealthy. Some whole fruits and milk are made up of simple carbohydrates, but they still contain a variety of healthy nutrients.
Examples of bad carbohydrates include:
– white bread
– Pizza dough
– white pasta
– Fruit juice
– Sugary soft drinks
– tomato sauce
What is the difference between good and bad carbohydrates?
According to Udi Van, “Choosing a variety of complex carbohydrates each day is great for nourishing your gut microbiome and promoting digestive health. These complex carbohydrates will have less effect on blood sugar levels, which is especially important for people with diabetes or PCOS. Stable blood sugar levels will keep your energy and mood stable throughout the day as well.” On the other hand, recent studies show that people who regularly consume foods that contain low-quality simple carbohydrates have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that eating too few or too many carbohydrates can also be unhealthy, and is linked to increased mortality.
Should simple carbohydrates be avoided?
It’s important to note that not all simple carbohydrates are “unhealthy” choices; Simple carbohydrates are found in many nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and milk. And simple carbohydrates to consider are processed foods or foods with added sugars. Enjoying all foods and meals in moderation is normal and healthy and is the key to physical and emotional health. The key word here is moderation. In my clinic, we try to remove food labels and remove the notion that certain foods or meals are inherently “bad.”