ALL ABOUT CARBOHYDRATES
Why you shouldn’t avoid all carbs…
Carbohydrates are NOT bad for you! In fact they are an extremely important part of human nutrition. Carbs give you energy and provide many of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients necessary for good health. However, eating the wrong kinds of carbs on a regular basis – can be very harmful. Many experts now believe that ‘bad’ carbs are a leading cause of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high-cholesterol, and several of the other serious health problems we face in modern times.
What are ‘good’ carbs?
The simple answer to this question is this: good carbs are unprocessed carbohydrates in their ‘natural’ state – or very close to their natural state. In other words they have been minimally altered by man or machine (or not altered at all). Most diet experts agree that green vegetables are the ‘ultimate’ good carbs. In fact, pretty much all ‘leafy’ vegetables and fruits fit into this category. Beans and legumes are also, generally, included on the ‘good carbs’ list, as are nuts and seeds. Finally, whole-grain cereal foods – including whole-grain breads and pastas – are considered by many to be good carb foods (although there is some disagreement over this).
Good carbs have these healthy characteristics:
- high in fiber: helps you stay full longer (and avoid overeating), provides sustained energy, lowers cholesterol levels, helps to remove toxins from the body
- low glycemic index: stabilizes blood sugar levels and insulin production
- high in nutrients: natural vitamins, minerals & phytonutrients promote health and help to prevent chronic disease
- low ‘energy-density‘ (except nuts & seeds): provides sustained energy, promotes healthy weight loss and long-term weight maintenance
- greater ‘thermic effect‘: naturally stimulates metabolism and promotes fat loss
Many popular weight loss diets incorporate good carbs into their eating plans because they are so effective at lowering insulin production and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Also, because of their high fiber-content, good carbs make you feel fuller and help you to avoid overeating – a major problem for many people trying to lose weight safely!
To sum it up, the following food types are generally considered to be good carbs and should make up most or all of your carb intake:
whole vegetables, whole fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole cereal grains
Note: Some nutritionists include ‘healthy’ dairy products like low-fat milk and sugar-free yogurt on the list, but there is much disagreement over this so we’ll leave dairy foods off for now.
What are ‘bad’ carbs…
Bad carbs are refined, processed carbohydrate foods that have had all or most of their natural nutrients and fiber removed in order to make them easier to transport and more ‘consumer friendly.’ Most baked goods, white breads, pastas, snack foods, candies, and non-diet soft drinks fit into this category. Bleached, enriched wheat flour and white sugar – along with an array of artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives – are the most common ingredients used to make ‘bad carb’ foods.
Bad carbs are harmful mainly because the human body is not able to process them very well. Our hormonal and digestive systems developed over the course of millions of years. Yet only in the past 100 years or so have humans had
access to these highly-processed carbohydrates in abundance. Our bodies simply didn’t have time to adapt and evolve to handle the rapid changes in food processing.
Because of this, most of the processed carbs we eat wreak havoc on our natural hormone levels. Insulin production, especially, is ‘thrown out of wack’ as the body attempts to process the huge amounts of starches and simple sugars contained in a typical ‘bad carb’-based meal. This leads to dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose levels – a big reason why you often feel lethargic after eating these unhealthy meals.
Also, it’s important to realize that most processed carb foods provide only ’empty’ calories – calories with little or no nutritional-value. Eat enough of these empty calories and your body will quickly turn them into extra bodyfat, as anyone with a weight problem already knows all to well!
The regular consumption of large amounts of high-sugar, low-fiber, nutritionally-poor ‘bad carbs’ eventually leads to a much higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. It’s pretty clear that the abundance of processed carbs and unhealthy trans-fats found in so many foods is a major cause – if not the biggest cause – of many of our modern chronic health problems.
What can good carbs do for you?
Simply put, if you eat only good carbs you can avoid many of the health problems that plague millions of people around the world.
- You will be healthier and fitter.
- You will feel better and have significantly more energy.
- You will lose most or all of your excess body fat.
- Most importantly, you’ll be able to get more enjoyment out of your body and your life!
Simple tips for incorporating good carbs into your diet…
- Try to cut out as much ‘junk food’ from your diet as possible. This includes pretty much all chips, candy, soft drinks, etc.
- Avoid – or at least limit – your intake of refined-flour baked goods, including non-whole-grain breads, bagels, doughnuts, cupcakes, brownies, cakes, etc. Also, throw out the processed, high-sugar breakfast cereals – stick to whole-grain cereals and oatmeal.
- Buy a variety of fresh fruits and veggies and begin to include at least 1 or 2 servings with each meal. Also, avoid getting hungry (and overeating) by snacking on fruit or cut-up veggies throughout the day – a single large apple can easily curb hunger.
- Try to eat a serving of leafy green vegetables at least twice a day. Also, eat a variety of other colorful vegetables as often as possible.
- Use nuts and seeds as healthy, portable snacks you can carry anywhere. Also, they can be used to add flavor and ‘texture’ to many different foods (especially salads).
- Eat a serving of beans or legumes at least 1-2 times per day. The dozens of different types of beans and peas can be used in hundreds of healthy recipes. Also, consider buying or making bean sprouts – they are considered to be some of the most nutritionally ‘powerful’ foods available!
- If you buy grain products – including breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, etc. – always choose whole-grain options. Just make sure that ‘whole-grain’ is the first word in the ingredients list and you’ll be fine.
When possible, always choose organic foods.