Carbs! A controversial topic among people who are trying to lose weight. From limiting carbohydrate intake to avoiding them, different diets have a different approach to carbohydrates. They are poised as number one enemy when it comes to weight loss, no matter the diet.
Add to that the success “low carb” diets like Atkins or Keto diet are having, one might actually think that all carbs are bad. And that’s where most people get things wrong as not all carbs are evil.
Sure, carbs from sugar, bread, pasta, processed foods, etc. are indeed bad for your body. But combining them with carbs from fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. and saying all carbs are bad is just ridiculous. As all carbs are not created equal, some carbs are better than others. You can say they are divided into good carbs and bad carbs.
The fact is most people don’t even know what qualifies as a carb and role it plays in our body. Add to that the different nutritional information we receive from friends and family, it just confuses us. So, instead of wondering whether the carbs we’re consuming are good carbs or bad carbs let’s know the facts.
What are Carbs?
Carbohydrates, also known as saccharides or carbs, are sugars or starches. Simply said, carbs are one of the three important macronutrients(nutrients that form a large part of our diet) found in our food – the other two are proteins and fats. Once eaten, they get converted to glucose in our body and function as a major source of energy.
Often when we hear the word carb, we think of foods like bread, pasta, etc. But the fact is carbs are present in every food be it fruits, nuts, veggies, seeds, grains and even in zero calorie foods.
Check here for a detailed list of foods with carbs. Now we know that all carbs are not bad, let’s understand which carbs are better for body and which carbs you should avoid.
For that, you should know there are two main types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple vs. Complex Carbs: The Difference
The major difference between simple carbs and complex carbs in how quickly the sugar is absorbed by our body. Simple carbs break down into glucose quickly and provide little to no nutritional value to the body. They are just ’empty calories’. Simple carbs are also a source of instant energy because they break down easily.
They usually come from things like candy bars, donuts, all forms of sugar (natural or processed) etc. And our energy-hungry brain knows that these contain carbs that are an easy source of energy, so we eat them. If you overindulge on simple carbs the cells in our body take the excess carbs and convert them to glycogen or fat before storing them.
Complex carbs are foods filled with fiber, vitamin, and minerals. When you eat healthy carbs. our body breaks them slowly into glucose to use as energy or stored as glycogen. Complex carbs break down slowly because they contain fiber which is not absorbed by the small intestine. Fiber is extremely important for our body and has immense benefits for our body ranging from lowering LDL cholesterol to regulating your blood sugar levels.
Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, while complex carbs provide more sustained energy. In short, Complex carbohydrates are key to maintaining your overall health and weight. This is the reason type of food you eat is more important than what exercise you do. No matter how hard you workout, it won’t help much if your body is converting simple carbs and storing them as fat.
When it comes to losing weight, just by cutting out the simple carbs you can start to see a drastic change in your body. So, cut out the sugar, choose whole grains over refined grains and stay focused on complex carbs to fuel your body properly.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Since carbs are found in almost every food you eat including the healthy ones like veggies and unhealthy like pastries. This has led to the idea that some carbs are good for your body while some are bad.
Bad carbs include foods like doughnuts, sodas, sugary foods, processed foods, white rice, white bread, and other white flour foods. These foods are made up of simple carbs and provide little to no nutritional value. So, bad carbs are foods that contain:
- Refined sugars especially white sugar
- Refined grains
- Made of white flour
- Low or no fiber
- Low or no nutrients
- High Sodium
- More calories
- High Cholesterol and trans-fats
Good carbs include healthy foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans which contain complex carbs and plenty of nutrients. So, good carbs are foods that contain:
- No refined sugar and refined grains
- Devoid of White flour
- Moderate to Low Calories
- High natural fiber
- More Nutrients
- Low Sodium
- Low or no Cholesterol and trans-fats
Benefits of Carbohydrates
If you eat the right type of carbs, then carbs can be extremely beneficial for you. Some of the noted benefits are:
Yes, eating the right type of carbs can actually lead to weight loss. How? Because many good carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables with skins contain a high amount of fiber. This fiber helps you feel full which means you will eat less which in turn leads to weight loss. And usually, low calorie or zero calorie foods are full of dietary fibers.
A diet very low in carbs for several days usually results in rising in ketone bodies in the blood. This state of high ketone bodies in the body is known as Ketosis which is an important reason for weight loss in the Keto diet.
Fiber, especially from whole grains, also helps in lowering LDL cholesterol (which is bad) in the body, thereby improving overall heart health.
Carbs are Required
It’s important to remember that your body needs carbs regardless of your weight loss goals. As without sufficient level of carbs, your body gets no energy and it will start to use protein for fuel but protein is needed to make muscles. Without sufficient consumption of carbohydrates may also lead to insufficient fiber in the body, which can cause digestive problems and constipation.
So, it’s important to fuel your body with nutrient and fiber-rich complex carbs.
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