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The Facts About Carbohydrates Good Carbs and Bad Carbs

Not all carbs are bad for you. Learning the difference between bad carbohydrates and good carbs is important for a healthy diet.

Carbohydrates or carbs for short have become the villain of our diets. Diet authors and diet marketers have declared the carb as bad for our diets, bad for our health and the cause for the rise in obesity, diabetes and a host of other illnesses.

You can read how someone became overweight from eating carbs. Or a health study’s conclusion was that participants gained weight while on a high carbohydrate diet compared to a low carbohydrate diet. Many times, what the diet marketers don’t tell you is what type of carbs these people were eating. It usually turns out that yes; they were eating a lot of carbs, the bad carbs like cookies, cakes, donuts, white bread and the rest of the bad carbs. Of course someone eating those will gain weight, not to mention sugar is also a carbohydrate. In too many studies, the participants didn’t even know what kind of carbs they were eating, whole grain, white flour, cracked flour or exactly what kind. Their conclusion, all carbs are bad and cause weight gain.

Why We Need Carbohydrates

The different types of carbohydrates are simple carbs (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber). Both carbohydrates turn into glucose in our body and that is what the body uses as fuel, energy and replenishing the muscles.

We need to eat three groups of foods for good health. These are fats, protein and carbohydrates. Some diet marketers try to make us believe that we shouldn’t eat any or hardly any carbohydrates, but that wouldn’t be healthy. Our body needs carbohydrates for the following important functions:

· Carbs are broken down and used for energy since it is the body’s main source of fuel.

· Every cell in our body uses carbohydrates for energy and the health of the cells.

· The organs, muscles and the central nervous system need carbs to function properly. The heart also needs carbohydrates for healthy functioning. Remember, the heart is also a muscle.

· The fibers in carbohydrates are important for a healthy digestive system.

It is in carbs that you will find both kinds of fiber (soluble and insoluble), vitamins, minerals and many phytochemicals you cannot get from protein or fats.

The Bad Carbs

Bad carbs are usually thought of as the simple carbs, like sugar, soda pop and fruit juices. Bad carbs also include the over processed highly refined carbohydrates like white flour, white bread, white rice, cookies, cakes, donuts and anything else made with these refined products. There are really no bad carbs in nature; the bad carbs are man-made. In nature, carbohydrates have plenty of fiber and nutrients; it is only after the processing that takes the fiber and nutrients out that causes carbohydrates to become bad carbs.

When you see labels that say enriched bread; that means they have put some of the vitamins and nutrients back into the bread after they had already been processed out. These added vitamins are usually man-made substitutes and not as good as the vitamins and minerals that were originally in the grain, and enriched certainly doesn’t mean that all of the nutrients were added back in.

How Bad Carbs Affect Our Health

When you eat refined carbohydrates or simple carbs, they are digested rapidly into glucose, causing the pancreas to make insulin. Insulin tries to put the glucose into the liver, muscles and cells. If too much glucose is put into the system too quickly, the pancreas continues to put out more and more insulin. Over time this can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to type II diabetes and the metabolic syndrome.

With continual eating of the highly refined bad carbs, the glucose levels stay high. Insulin cannot work fast enough, the liver in a sense runs out of storage room and the rest of the unused glucose is converted to and stored as fat. Usually belly fat.

This rapid digestion into glucose can give a quick rise in energy but dissipates quickly, leaving you hungry and tired. A simple carb can be good in certain athletic competitions, but in everyday life, the quick burst of energy means a quick return to hunger and worn out feeling, which just makes you eat more, sooner, without ever using up that quick energy. So it is stored as fat.

Good Carbs

The more natural or unprocessed a carbohydrate is, the more of a good carb it is. A list of good carbs would be vegetables, long grain and brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa, whole grain pasta, fruit, white and sweet potatoes.

The good carbohydrates do not flood our body with high amounts of glucose all at once, and the fiber that is naturally in good carbs, slows down the digestion of carbohydrates so our body isn’t overwhelmed trying to make insulin.

Eating all kinds of vegetables is a great way to get the good carbs and their nutrients. As a consumer, it is hard to know if we are buying and eating whole grains or some kind of refined grain with misleading words in the ingredients. The first ingredient should say whole wheat, whole oats or some other whole grain, if it doesn’t, then it most likely is not whole grain.

You can’t really go by the fiber count, since a product that is highly refined flour could have fiber added. But that wouldn’t be the natural kind of fiber that was already there and taken out by the refining process.

Conclusion

One reason for the rise in obesity is that the average diet has become so full of the processed and refined bad carbs. Not the good carbs. Simple carbs like sugar, high corn fructose syrup soda pops and fruit juices along with the highly refined breads and buns, rice and pasta can add pounds of fat to your body each year.

There are far more studies that show a diet high in good carbohydrates are healthy for us than they are bad for us [1]. By limiting the amount of good carbs in your diet, you are depriving yourself of healthy minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that you cannot get from the other food groups. Just remember to eat the whole unprocessed and unrefined good carbohydrates.

© 2010 Sam Montana

Resources and related articles

[1] Worlds Healthiest Foods Carbohydrate Studies

Nutrition Action Report

Harvard School of Public Health

Why Belly Fat is Dangerous to Your Health

Healthy Food and Nutrition Articles

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Comments (15)

Interesting article.

I completely agree! This misleading advertising has driven me crazy for years. Thank you!

It's important for people to realize that they need carbs in their diet for good health. They just need to choose wisely..

This is a good read

Barbara, who would you consider undernourished and needs to gain healthy weight.

I know several people who are thin, and that is because they are runners. They are very serious into their running. None of them are undernourished; in fact they probably eat better than many overweight people. I have seen many undernourished overweight people before. Thin does not make a person undernourished. Undernourished and thin could mean drug addicts or people living in a war torn country.

Excellent

If that were the reason a person was thin, stress from being bullied, intimidation or stress, they wouldn’t be hungry, so there would nothing they could eat to gain weight and be nourished. Stress can take everything out of a person. The way for a person to be nourished in a situation like that would be to fix the problem of the stress and intimidation. If a person were losing weight from a stressful situation like that, a protein shake with added fruit and yogurt would help along with a good multivitamin. Depending on the reason for stress, a person can eat more junk food or not feel hungry at all. If they don’t feel hungry, they aren’t going to really be able to eat or hold it down.

Good share, i love it

Since fat has twice the calories of carbs, it makes sense that carbs are not the villain. I believe we must have a healthy balance of good carbs, good fats and protein... I've quit eating meat for the most part.. I eat a slice of turkey sandwich meat every day... but that is about it.. I get my proteins from pinto beans and other types of beans.. I've lost several inches since last summer. Low carb diets only work for a short time.... in the end, it still comes to less calories in and more calories spent for energy. I've also stopped drinking soda pops too.. no diet cokes or anything. Water has been my main beverage now... and I feel much better.

There are some real flaming arguments on the Internet from people who defend the high protein low-carb diets. I don’t know why it is that way, but it is. Dr. Eads (and his wife) have come out with some books that have really stated that carbs are the enemy and that saturated fat actually cleans the liver and arteries and stops heart disease. I wrote about that in the article Diets and More Diets. There is plenty of protein without the saturated fat in beans, legumes and quinoa. Soda pop has some chemicals that are bad besides HFCS. Carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per grams.

Great article. I've always thought that carbs are unfairly demonized by publicity (or profit?)-hungry diet "experts".

Hi Karina, it is especially annoying when you read all carbs lumped together, white refined and whole. I do beleive you can lose weight by limiting some carbs for a while, but a diet that has no carbs is not that healthy. I think I was eating just too much whole-wheat bread and brown rice. When I limited those amounts I did notice I lost some weight.

hasya

Really very good article,I am always so confused wether i should eat the whole grains everyday or not,Because they are fully loaded with carbs i am unable to decide is it good to eat or not eventhough they have soluble fiber,Now i can eat them everyday..

Ranked #142 in Food & Nutrition

Good article. Carbs get a bad rap just like fats do, so that the newest fad diet book, or diet supplements can be sold. Bottom line is that we need fats, and we need carbs. It is not that the fats and carbs are bad, it is where we get them from. Face it, take carbs out, take out the fats, you are eating nothing but sugar, salt and chemicals. The bottom line is if we take in more calories than we burn, we are going to gain weight. Fad diets, the yo yo syndrome slows down metabolism.

great article-in depth look at the different carbs. I think that all the fad diets that focus on reducing total carbs (which is vital to our health and energy levels) are just trying to make a quick buck off of the millions of people that want to lose weight. Its good to educate ourselves about these things so we dont get taken for a ride. Thanks.

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