Carbohydrates are the new “black sheep” of the nutritional family. In recent years, they have become the enemy, replacing fat as the food to avoid at all costs. Low carb diets are all the rage, and people are finding new and creative ways and reasons to cut carbs.
But not all carbs are bad. In fact, carbs are a vital part of any healthy diet! Without carbs, you wouldn’t have energy to hit the gym, play with your kids, or work hard all day long. Carbs play a central role in your day, but it’s all about finding the good carbs and avoiding the bad ones.
What are Bad Carbs?
To put it simply, bad carbs are any carbs that contain very little fiber. Your body turns carbs into glucose, but too many carbs at once causes a spike in your blood sugar levels. This sugar spike leads to all sorts of problems, with diabetes being the #1 villain.
Fiber, however, slows down the rate at which the carbs are absorbed. Your body has to break down the food to separate the carbs from the fiber, so glucose is produced at a much slower rate. This prevents a spike in your blood sugar levels.
Bad carbs have no fiber, and they are the ones that will cause the spike in your blood sugar levels. Here are a few bad carbs to avoid:
White Bread/White Flour Products — Wheat is a very healthy grain, but to make white flour, the fibrous hull is removed and only the starchy kernel is used. White flour has no fiber, so any white flour products (including white bread, pastries, cakes, cookies, and the list goes on) qualify as “bad” carbs.
White Rice — Brown rice is VERY healthy because of the high fiber content, but to make white rice, the kernels are bleached and the fiber is removed. This leaves only the high-starch rice, so it’s better to avoid white rice as much as possible.
Pasta — Egg noodles, ramen noodles, Japanese udon noodles, and most types of noodles are made with white flour or white rice, meaning they are rich in carbs and almost entirely free of fiber. They’re delicious, but will be absorbed too quickly into your body–meaning a spike in glucose.
Sugar — Anything with a lot of sugar and no fiber–such as jam, jelly, processed sugar, syrups, high fructose corn syrup, and the list goes on and on–are going to be on this list of “no no’s”. Sugar is as high-carb as it gets, and it’s the first thing your body turns into glucose.
What are Good Carbs?
Simply put: good carbs contain more fiber than starch or sugar. This includes:
Veggies — Almost entirely fiber, with little or no sugar to speak of.
Brown Flour/Bread/Products — Anything made with brown flour still has the fiber from the grain, keeping the balance healthy.
Brown Rice — Brown rice is one of the healthiest foods around, thanks to its high fiber content.
Whole Grains — This includes things like oats, amaranth, quinoa, barley, millet, and spelt. All of these grains are loaded with fiber and contain less starch, so the risk of sugar spikes is much lower.
Fruit — Fruit contains some sugar (though it is all natural), but there is fiber to counterbalance the effects of the sugar. As long as you don’t overdo it on the fruit, you have nothing to worry about.
Replace the bad carbs in your life for the good carbs, and you’ll be healthier than ever!