Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs

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complex-carbohydrates

Here’s a quick quiz for you. What does oatmeal, white bread, cakes, beans, pasta and brown rice all have in common? For those that answered carbohydrates, you all win—well, a chance to read this delightful article. They are alike as much as they are different, and here’s the cliff’s notes version why. Oatmeal, beans, brown rice are all energy-boosters, while white bread, cakes and pasta all take your energy away. There’s more to it than that, however; let’s get down to the nitty gritty of why we need carbs in our diet.

First, let’s look at good carbs. These carbs are found in such delicious foods as sweet potatoes, apples and tomatoes. You may also find them in strawberries, beets, beans or brown rice. These foods are rich in fiber. Fiber helps fill your stomach with water, which ultimately makes you feel fuller for longer. Apples and tomatoes are also a wonderful way to get more water into your diet. Nutritionists recommend that people eat foods that rich in vitamins and minerals. All these foods contain the best fiber content and are considered good carbs for the body.

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How exactly do good carbs function in the body? One important benefit for diabetics is that it helps lower insulin levels. When you are eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean meats—your blood sugar is more likely to be regulated. This lowers your chances of contracting illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In addition, these good carbs help to assist with your weight loss goal. The fiber that your body intakes plays a big role in this. You’re more likely to experience a smaller appetite, especially if you drink a glass of water before each meal.

Furthermore, you’re going have much more energy. Carbohydrates either speed up or slow your metabolism, depending on what you eat. When you eat good carbs, your body is taking its time digesting your food. It doesn’t have to work as hard, which is letting you get more done. This is the case when we eat lean meats, fruits and veggies on a regular basis. Our bodies start to depend on them and, in turn, we start to reflect healthier lifestyles. These good carbs are going to work in favor of your healthy life—or help you get on the path to one.

simple-carbs

In contrast, bad carbs are something you want to stay from for good. These are found in all our guilty pleasures—sugar cereal, cakes, cookies and so much more. These are the white breads, the sodas and ice cream. They are all considered to be ‘empty calories,’ mostly due to the fact because they are low in nutrients. These foods are almost the polar opposite of good carbs. They make you hungry more often and may tempt you to eat over the recommended portion size. Think of the last time you had a bowl of chips. How many times did you refill your bowl? Sometimes we do this sub-consciously, which means we don’t realize we’re doing it. These bad carbs work against us—and our diet—and it’s time to stop them in their tracks.

These carbs can also make us feel tired. They’re the carbs we go for before the afternoon meeting when we are feeling sluggish at work, for instance. When we eat a big meal, such as at Thanksgiving or Christmas, our blood sugar rises. When this happens, our bodies are often running low on energy. It takes longer for our body to process the food, which may affect our productivity. This is a direct result of the carbs that you just ate within your meal. These bad carbs may also turn into fat cells much quicker because the body takes longer processing them. Also, if you had too much sugar—pies, cookies and soda—you may experience a sugar crash. This makes you drowsy and want to sleep.

healthy-eating

In retrospect, it all comes down to healthy life choices. These choices start right in your home and continue as you make your way through the grocery store. First, make the decision to throw out the bad carbs from your diet. Let’s pause a moment here. Every motivational speaker I’ve heard about weight loss has said not to throw this out completely. For instance, if ice cream is your go-to sweet then get it out of the house—but, use it as a reward for your weight loss goal. When you lose those 10 pounds or 25 pounds, treat yourself to your guilty pleasure. Sure, it’s a ‘bad carb,’ but as all dieters know (myself included), if you cut out your sweet treats, then your diet is not going to succeed. It’s time to be real and be kind to yourself.

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In addition, research and try some low-carb diets such as Atkins or the South Beach diet. Both of these diets have different styles of shedding pounds, but try the best one that fits you. Also, don’t forget to exercise. Remember—it doesn’t have to be competitive or dramatic exercise. If your neighbor does heavy weights or yoga at the gym, it doesn’t mean you have to meet her standards of fitness. Exercise can be as simple as squats or lunges around your living room. Moving the lawn is exercise—on a push lawn mower, of course. Go roller skating or play 1-on-1 basketball with your child.

In order to achieve your weight loss goal, it’s important to keep those bad carbs as low as possible. Stay away from processed foods and anything in the center of the grocery store. If you are exercising as part of your diet, then you shouldn’t have any problem with carbohydrates. The exercise is going to help boost your metabolism and keep your body burning even the bad carbohydrates at a record pace. Once you do reach your weight loss goal, don’t forget to reward yourself with your guilty pleasure—but in moderation. Try to stay within portion size and keep steamrolling forward to that ultimate weight loss goal. You can do it!

2 Comments

  1. Francie

    Oh, my gosh! I was just talking about this with a Home Health Aide this morning! I was reaching for the word “empty carb” and couldn’t find it.

    We were talking about the kinds of breads that my dad likes. He is 91 years old and he’s had diabetes for at least 42 years.

    He used to snack on candy a lot, but when he got diabetes, he had to cut down on sweets. He has to keep them around in case he gets low blood sugar, but he made a science out of regulating his diet to keep everything in check and didn’t have to go on insulin for about 35 years after he got the disease.

    The aide and I were talking about the way he likes to eat English muffins and white bread, which is better than candy, because it’s slower to digest, but it’s still a refined or “empty” carb. It would be better if he ate whole wheat muffins and breads, but at 91 he’s not too interested in changing.

    I think that we can learn from him — not just the problems of being so addicted to candy, but also the way he used great self-discipline to minimize the problems related to diabetes. When he was younger, I don’t think this information was out there and easy to find. It’s great that this resource can help us understand exactly how things metabolize and how they either create or reduce the problems created by excess sugar in the body. Thanks!

  2. Sissy

    It’s also very true that the proper balance of foods can contribute to mental well-being.

    People are more irritable and less able to handle stress when their nutritional needs are not met. There are links between dysfunctional families and poor diet. I also see that kids who eat junk food at home most of the time don’t do their homework and can’t even perform well at school, even with a teacher or aide helping them.

    It’s important to know that the unrefined, more natural carbs digest more slowly and therefore don’t demand that the body release a flood of insulin. That is why we tend not to experience the huge drop in energy that we get after eating refined carbs and getting the large insulin surge that goes with them.

    The insulin lowers our blood sugar immediately to compensate for the empty, refined carbs. That’s why our energy goes so low and also why we feel hungry again so soon after loading up on sweets.

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