Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation in the diet industry. Many fad diets try to severely limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat, or eliminate them altogether. However, not all carbs are created equal. There are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. When you know the difference between them and what effect they have on your body, then you can make food choices that lead to a healthier lifestyle.
What are Carbohydrates
Basically, carbohydrates are made up of sugar, starches, and fiber. Sugar and starches are broken down to produce glucose. Glucose is absorbed into the blood stream as blood sugar. Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that is not digested. However, fiber is important because it aids in the absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste, helps prevent overeating, and regulates blood sugar. The difference between good and bad carbs is in these three basic building blocks of carbohydrates.
Why Are Carbohydrates Important
Carbohydrates are important because they supply the body with energy in the form of glucose. This energy can be used immediately, or it can be stored in the liver. Without carbohydrates, the body would not have a steady source of energy and it would begin to break down proteins instead. This means that your muscles, including your heart, would have a depleted source of energy and decreased ability to function properly. Carbohydrates are an important part of every healthy diet. However, you want to make sure you are eating good carbs that provide your body with the nutrients that it needs.
What is the Difference Between Good Carbs and Bad Carbs
Complex carbohydrates are considered “good” carbs. These are foods that are naturally high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are beneficial to the health of your body. Good carbs are absorbed slowly into your system, avoiding spikes in blood sugar. Some examples of good carbs are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, brown rice, and beans.
Simple carbohydrates are considered “bad” carbs. These are highly processed foods that are stripped of their minerals, vitamins, and fiber during the refining process. These foods have a low nutrient density and basically no nutritional value. These foods are high in refined sugar, which is absorbed quickly into the blood stream, causing a spike in blood sugar. Some examples of bad carbs are refined grains, white bread, hamburger buns, pizza crust, pastries and baked goods, chips, and sodas.
Fast Food is Full of Bad Carbs
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but that doesn’t mean you are free to load up on fast food. The dangers of eating fast food is that it is full of bad carbs. Most fast food is made up of simple carbohydrates that are easy to digest and full of added sugars with little real nutritional value. These empty calories can lead to weight problems. When fast food replaces more nutritious food on a regular basis, it can lead to poor nutrition and poor overall health.
You can indulge in simple carbohydrates occasionally, but it’s important to be sensible about it. Making healthy choices on a daily basis means choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index, and keep your blood sugar from rising too high too quickly. Living a healthy lifestyle means choosing complex carbohydrates, or “good” carbs over “bad” carbs, and giving your body what it needs.