Welcome to this series about Healthy Eating. Enjoy the commonsense precepts and principles. Enjoy the many benefits of Healthy eating.
Breads, sugars and pastas are all carbohydrate foods and are the staples of many people’s diets. Carbohydrates have been receiving a bad reputation in the past few years. Unfortunately, lumping all carbs into the ‘bad’ basket has caused much confusion and disinformation for those concerned about their nutrition.
There was a time, not too long ago, when all fats were considered bad. Longer term studies have shown convincingly that some dietary fat is very beneficial and necessary to human health. There are good fats and bad fats. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Similarly, there are carbohydrates which, when not eaten to excess, are good for us. Others are not so good, or even unhealthy.
Some carb sources have been highly regarded as being very helpful for the prevention of some chronic diseases.
This brings us to a commonly asked question, ‘which carbs are good and which carbs are bad?’
The Good Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are considered good carbs because they provide the body with a useable source of energy as well as fiber and other dietary nutrients in addition to the carbohydrate content. The carbohydrate is slowly broken down by the body into glucose. These are the types of carbs that keep our blood sugar levels steady all throughout the day, without making us experience hunger pangs.
Unlike simple carbs, complex carbohydrates also reduce the prevalence of mood swings and reduce the likelihood of feeling irritable.
Examples of good carbohydrate foods include whole meal pasta, brown rice, potatoes, whole grains, legumes, beans, peas and nuts. It also includes dairy products that are not processed with added sugar.
The Bad Carbohydrates
Bad carbohydrates are those foods that are referred to as simple carbohydrates. These are the types of carbs that are broken down by the body too rapidly for the body to use the released glucose. If left in the bloodstream, this excess is dangerous to parts of the body such as the eyes, so the body moves quickly to sweep it into body tissues and organs. The excess is mostly stored as unwanted and unhealthy body fat.
Simple carbohydrates are found in foods that are made from refined sugar and processed flours such as cakes, cookies, soft drinks, chips and alcoholic beverages. It also includes white rice and food made largely from white flour, including many pasta types.
These foods are digested by the body very quickly, so they cause people to experience blood sugar ‘spikes’. These spikes are what causes you to have an energy crash. Eating too many bad carbohydrates may over time increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes.
The Importance of Carbohydrates
Glucose is the unit of sugar that the body uses as one of its sources of energy. Moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates are effective suppliers of glucose while also supplying vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The problem arises when we eat only simple carbs regularly and in large quantities. It is one of the biggest reasons for our obesity problem of today. Too many soft drinks, cakes, donuts and fried foods are coated with more carbs.
Excess simple carb consumption leads to excess stored body fat.
In order to meet the body’s daily nutritional requirement, adults in a healthy weight range can obtain 45-65 per cent of calories from their carbohydrate intake. Those wanting to reduce unwanted fat can replace some of these carbs with protein to lose weight without restricting their calorie intake.
It makes good dietary sense to choose to eat good complex carbs instead of simple carbs to make up the carbohydrate component of your diet.
Along with your carbs, eat plenty of protein rich foods that are also sources of other needed vitamins, minerals and nutrients. A healthy, balanced diet lowers your risk of many lifestyle diseases.
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Nick Thorne is the founder of NicksDigitalSolutions Limited a company that specialises in Education, Training and Writing. He lives in Levin, New Zealand