What Are Bad Carbohydrates and What Did They Do So Wrong?
You’ve probably heard a lot about “good carbohydrates” and “bad carbohydrates.” Isn’t a carb a carb? Actually, no. Complex carbohydrates are called “good” because of the healthy way in which they are processed by the body. Simple carbs are known as “bad” because of their unhealthy effects.
The Life and Times of a Carbohydrate
Before you can understand the difference between good and bad carbs, you have to know a little bit about carbohydrates and what we use them for. Our bodies need carbohydrates in order to function, and a substantial part of our diet should be made up of them. When our bodies take in carbs, we break them down and convert them into glycogen (sugar) – an easy to use energy source.
With no carbs in your diet, you would feel weak and lethargic and have a hard time performing any type of activity.
It’s Simple, Complex Carbs Are Better
In foods like whole grains and vegetables, carbohydrates are coated in a layer of fiber. It takes a while for our bodies to break down the fiber. The conversion and uptake of glycogen happens slowly and so sugars enter the bloodstream at a measured pace. Because of this, blood sugar levels remain normal and healthy. This provides sustained energy so that we are able to perform at peak levels until our next meal. These kinds of carbohydrates are called “complex,” or “good.”
When grains are refined, as is the case with white flour products, this coat is either ruined or removed so that the sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream very rapidly. This causes blood sugar levels to surge, giving a sudden burst of energy. This “spike,” however, is only temporary. Sugar dumps like this always result in a crash. After the initial “high,” you’ll feel suddenly exhausted, and even weak, jittery, or shaky Not only is this an inefficient way to create energy for the body, it is a recipe for weight gain and a whole host of health problems. This type of carbohydrate is known as “simple.” These are the bad carbohydrates.
When you eat simple carbohydrates, you tend to become hungry again very quickly because the nutritional benefit from these foods is very low. This is why most refined products are enriched with vitamins – because they have virtually none left in them after the refining process. These bad carbs are considered to be high on the glycemic index because they assimilate into the body so fast. Conversely, so-called good carbs are low glycemic index foods because of the long, sustained way that the sugars in them are released.
When we consume complex carbohydrates, we stay fuller for longer periods of time and are far less likely to overeat or make subsequent bad food choices. It is also much healthier than riding the glucose roller coaster induced by bad carbohydrate consumption.
What to Eat and What to Avoid
These foods are sources of complex carbohydrates. Include lots of them in your diet.
- Whole grains
Foods like the following are simple – bad – carbohydrates and consumption of them should be limited.
- White flour & things made with it like tortillas, donuts, bagels, cakes and pastries.
- White rice
- White bread
- Refined cereals
- Processed foods
- Milled corn
- White pasta
Don’t despair about having to change your diet to eliminate those unhealthy carbs, though. There are whole grain substitutes to most of the foods listed above, and they taste really good! In fact, many people eventually develop a preference for whole grains and unrefined foods. Being aware of how the body reacts to different types of carbohydrates is an important step in making better dietary decisions for a lifetime of health!