Good Carbs Bad Carbs – Know Your Carbohydrates

Like cholesterol, carbohydrates can be both good and bad for your health.  There is a big difference between the various types of carbohydrates that we consume.  It is always good to know which carbohydrate sources could benefit us instead of make us unhealthy.

Are Carbohydrates Good or Bad?

Carbohydrates have been the subject of dispute in the past five years.  Carbs have been considered a ‘no-no’ in may fad diets and some have been recognized as healthy nutrients that lower risks for chronic diseases.

What is the verdict then?  Are carbs beneficial or disadvantageous?  The truth is, carbs are both good and bad, and it is fortunate that it is actually very easy to tell the difference.

  • Good carbs like the ones that are fiber rich have many health benefits. These prevent sudden rises in blood sugar levels because they are slowly absorbed in our systems. Good carbs from fiber-rich foods can be found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans.
  • Beneficial fiber is stripped away from processed carbohydrates like white bread and white rice. Eating less of these products can dramatically reduce the health risks posed by bad carbs.

Why Are Carbohydrates Important?

People should focus on having good carbs with fiber in their diets.

  • Chronic disease incidence can be lowered if adults meet their daily nutritional needs which include getting from 45%-65% of the required calories from carbohydrates, 20%-35% from fat, and 10%-35% from protein.
  • Quality carbohydrates can be found in plants and fruits that are fiber-rich. Eating these kinds of foods is also the only way to get fiber. The incidence of heart disease rises when people maintain low-fiber diets. Maintenance of ideal weight and the prevention of colon cancer are some of the benefits of a fiber-rich diet.
  • The recommended fiber intake of men aged 50 or younger is 38 grams per day. Women in this age group should also get 25 grams of fiber a day. As we grow older, our nutritional requirements decrease, so men over 50 should get 30 grams of fiber a day, and women in the same age groups should get 20 grams of fiber a day.

What Carbs are Considered Beneficial?

It’s easy to know which carbs are good for us because we only need to consider their fiber-content, except when the food item is naturally low in fiber content like low fat or skim milk.  Food items that contain good carbs include fiber-rich plant foods that also contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and grams of carbohydrates.

Why is Fiber Important?

Fiber in plant foods is indigestible, but despite this, it is very beneficial to our bodies because it slows down nutrient and carbohydrate absorption of other foods eaten in the same meal.  This slow absorption prevents irregularities in our blood sugar levels, thus, reducing the risk of type 2 Diabetes (NIDDM).  Some kinds of fiber like the ones in oats, beans and some fruits can even help lower blood cholesterol levels.  Fiber also gives us the feeling of fullness.

These considered, it is helpful to note that a typical American diet is normally very low in fiber.  The foods that Americans consume are generally refined, hence, the low fiber content as is applicable to grain based foods.  To remedy this, alternative sources of fiber should be considered.  The way to go would be to eat more fruits and vegetables; five servings of fruits and vegetables a day will easily give you ten grams or more of fiber, depending on the kinds of fruits and vegetables consumed.  Cooked beans and bean products can also add from 4-8 grams of fiber for every half cup of the food item consumed.  Make the wise choice and switch to whole grain products whenever possible.

Which Carbs are Bad for Us?

Sugars, added sugars, and refined white grains are the carbohydrate culprits.  People don’t realize how much sugar can be acquired from their regular diets everyday.  An average adult American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar, daily.  This converts into 320 calories and more added pounds to ones body weight.  Glucose, which comes from sugars and refined starches, can give us a quick energy boost, but this is only needed if we are competing in sports or need that extra energy if we are running or sprinting.  Fructose in fruits and lactose in milk are natural sugars and are more beneficial.  These are also contained in minimally processed whole foods.

Keep Away From Excess or Added Sugars.

When food is processed or prepared, sugars and syrups are added to enhance the flavor; these types of sugars are known as caloric sweeteners.  These sugars contain very few or no nutrients but are very high in calories.  These same sugars are present in low-fat foods that Americans take when observing a low-fat or fat-free diet.  The sad fact is that instead of the fat that is normally in these foods, we find added sugars in their place.  We are all only required nine teaspoons of sugar per day which is only 6%-10% of our calorie needs from added sugar, any more than this can be harmful to our health.

Nutrition Labels Can Be Very Helpful When Tracking Your Carbohydrates.

Looking at the nutrition facts section of food labels before we purchase anything can do wonders when trying to single out the bad from the good carbs, but we should also know what to look for in these labels.  Here are a few things we should take notice of:

  • Total Carbohydrate – this entry in the nutrition facts label indicates the total amount of carbohydrate in the product which is the sum of the number of grams of sugars, fibers, and other carbohydrates.
  • Dietary Fiber – this is the amount of carbohydrate that cannot be digested and will only pass through your digestive tract without being absorbed.
  • ‘Sugars’ – indicate the total carbohydrate content that you get from the sugar in the food, whether natural or added. Note also that it is important to identify the amount of natural sugars and added sugars. To do this, you have to check the list of ingredients for the product that you are buying. Ingredients are listed according to the quantity used in the product; hence, the sweeteners that you find in the top three or four items on the ingredients list would most likely make up the bulk of the product that you are buying.
  • Other Carbohydrate – there are other carbohydrates that your body can digest, whether artificial or natural. This entry indicates the amount of this particular digestible type of carbohydrate.
  • Sugar Alcohols – while not all products list this component of the product, some list sugar alcohols under the ‘total carbohydrate’ category.  This food component can cause intestinal problems in some people.  Examples of sugar alcohols are lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and many others.  Most of the time, sugar-free items list down these sugar alcohols even when an alternative sweetener is used for the product.

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2 Responses

  1. Pits says:

    Thyroid glands are responsible for excreting hormones that keep body weight in control. Their malfunction may be a factor that leads to excessive body fat.

  2. Robert Troch says:

    The previous comment is incorrect. It is the hypothalamus gland that controls the “set point” of which I think the commenter alluded to. The set point is like a regulator of a person’s body weight. An interplay between the nervous and hormonal systems the regulator does everything it can to keep the body at a certain weight. Of course it CAN be changed through nutrition and exercise.
    [rq=507,0,blog][/rq]Bodyweight Exercise

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