Carbohydrates have been demonized, especially in America, as a great big no-no if you’re trying to lose weight. But the story isn’t quite that simple. There are carbohydrates that are good for you, and actually help you to lose weight and maintain a healthy metabolism. In fact, it’s impossible to survive without some carbohydrates, because they are the sugars which our body uses for all of its energy.
We can get this energy from proteins, but it’s a much more difficult process for your body to break proteins down into the simple sugars it can actually use. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide a ready source of usable energy. It’s just how readily usable that energy is that makes a carb ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Good carbs release their energy slowly, giving you sustained energy throughout the day. Bad carbs give you a shot of energy that makes you hyperactive, makes it hard to concentrate, and inevitably results in a sugar crash that will leave you irritable, tired, and wanting to eat everything that isn’t nailed down.
What Makes a Bad Carb?
Bad carbs are typically those carbohydrates that have been heavily processed. They have been refined, preserved and flavoured to make them more attractive to consumers. They make you feel good for half an hour, and they taste good – but the long and short term effects they will have on your weight and your health hardly make the trade-off worth it. The saying, ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ was written about bad carbs.
So what kinds of foods would go into a list of bard carbs? Well, it’s difficult to list everything that you could call a bad carb, but the general rule is that if it’s white and wrapped in plastic, it’s probably a bad carb. Here’s a list of bad carbs to use as a guideline.
- White bread (the number one bogeyman!)
- Potatoes (especially fried because of the added fat and cholesterol)
- White flour pasta (as opposed to whole wheat pasta)
- White rice
- Burger buns
- Tortillas and wraps (unless made with whole wheat flour)
- Breadcrumbs on fried chicken
- Bread sticks
- Cookies and biscuits, unless they’re whole wheat digestives
- Pizza dough
That’s not everything that would be on a Grand List of Bad Carbs, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what makes up a list of bad carbs – and it’s pretty frightening. How many of these things have you eaten in the last week? How about in the last month?
Despite the prevalence of bad carbs in the supermarket, in restaurants and in fast food chains, it’s not actually that difficult to change all of the bad carbs in your diet for good ones. You don’t have to shop at a specialty store, or go to obscure farmers markets and fight hipsters for $4 peaches.
All you have to do is to educate yourself about which carbs have a ‘Low Glycemic Index’ – those that release energy slowly. Often seed loaves will say ‘Low GI’ on them, and this is always a safe bet. If you’re buying rolls, go for brown granary rolls with lots of whole seeds on top of them. Not only will these rolls help you to feel fuller for longer, the seeds also contain Omega-3 oils which will help to improve your cholesterol levels and general cardiovascular health.
It’s not difficult to eat only good carbs, and once you make this lifestyle change you’ll soon start to see the benefit. You’ll have more energy, feel the need to snack less, and have fewer ‘mid day slumps’ where you find yourself falling asleep in meetings!