Diet: good carbs vs. bad carbs

March 14th, 2013 · by Josh · Blog, Nutrition and Diet

Carbohydrates have had their fair share of bad press over the last decade and there are many diets on the market telling you that carbohydrates are the enemy; the Atkins diet is probably the most famous for promoting this way of thinking.

It’s been proven that your body can adapt to most ways of eating and there’s an argument for almost every dietary guideline; some will say the body can happily survive on no carbohydrates, while others say that low-carbohydrate diets have detrimental effects on your health.

We do know the body uses carbohydrates to make glucose, which is our main fuel source, but research has also shown the body can manufacture adequate amounts of glucose from protein if you reduce your carbohydrate intake.

In my opinion, carbohydrates play a very important role in how we lead our day-to-day lives and I would question the longevity of eradicating them from your diet full-time. For me, it’s about getting the balance right and making the correct choices when selecting which carbohydrates to eat.

So what carbohydrates should I eat?

Carbohydrates are mostly found in fruit, dairy, beans, grains, vegetables and also food containing added sugars such as cakes and biscuits.

However, before choosing which carbohydrates to eat it’s important to break them down into two different categories: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates

These carbohydrates are commonly referred to as ‘bad carbohydrates’, however this is not always the case.

Because of the natural quick-releasing sugars found in fruit and dairy products, they confusingly fall into this category of a simple (or ‘bad’) carbohydrate. However, natural sugars and refined sugars, like those added to foods such as cakes, sports drinks, fizzy drinks and sweets, are completely different.

Where fruit and dairy are full of nutritional value, refined sugars have almost no nutritional benefit and their processing from plant materials strips away any vitamins, minerals, fibre and nutrients.

The side effects of too much refined sugar!? How about weight gain, heart disease and diabetes for starters!

refined sugar

Image source: stellachua.com

The trouble is that these sugars are everywhere! Ketchup, Salad dressings, soft drinks, baked goods, desserts, fruit drinks, sweets, cereals, sauces and even baby food.

As refined sugars are digested quickly they often lead to very quick highs and big lows in your blood sugar levels, often leaving you hungry when you’re not, and low on energy.

Making the right food choices is very difficult when you feel bad tempered and your energy levels are on the floor, so it’s imperative with any healthy eating plan to stay away from refined sugars as much as possible.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are slow-releasing and are made up of more complicated sugars and starches that supply our body with essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre. Fibre can help you feel full, reduce your cholesterol levels and will slow down the absorption of other nutrients, and will help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Essentially, eating these types of carbohydrates will give your body an array of vital nutrients, aid the digestion process and give you a more balanced, slow release of energy, without causing constant energy highs and lows throughout the day.

It’s not only grains, starches and sweet food that contain carbohydrates. Vegetables and salad are by far the most important and nutritious carbohydrate. They break down into glucose very slowly and are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They are also loaded with fibre and antioxidants, and best of all they are low in calories!

vegetables

Image source: salford.ac.uk

A handy list of carbohydrates to include in your diet

Choosing the right carbohydrates doesn’t have to be boring; there are plenty of options to keep meal times interesting. Here are a few great carbohydrate-based foods to inspire you:

brown rice, quninoa, buckwheat noodles, boiled and baked potatoes, sweet potato, butternut squash, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, oats, pearl barley, couscous, rye bread, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, courgettes, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, peas, tomatoes, peppers, salads and other leafy greens.

One Response to “Diet: good carbs vs. bad carbs”

  1. Good article Josh “thank you”, interesting reading / facts. May I suggest, next time you give some quick recipes of what makes a good breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.

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