• Health Mentors

Carbohydrates - Good or Evil?

These days, the word “carbohydrate” ("carbs") #carbohydrates is either met with horror or gluttony - however, there is a happy medium. It is true that there are good carbs and bad carbs, so it is important to know which is which.

The good carbs are the foods that are full of fibre. They get absorbed slowly into our system and this keeps blood sugar levels at an even keel. The best form of carbohydrate is vegetables, whole grains and beans - plant foods #plantfoods that are high in fibre. High fibre diets help to prevent heart disease #heartdisease, colon cancer and really help with weight control as they keep us feeling more full for longer.

Also, good carbs can be from unprocessed foods that contain natural sugars such as fructose in fruit and lactose in whole milk. You can generally go by the rule that if a food is as much in its natural state as possible, it is a whole food and is usually unprocessed with no added sugars.

The bad carbs are foods that have been refined or processed. The beneficial part of the carb, ie the fibre, has been stripped away. The bad carbs get absorbed more quickly into our systems and blood sugar levels spike rapidly before dropping, leaving us wanting more. Our brains love this sugar spike as it provides immediate energy for the brain! However, they have little satiety value. Bad carbs are foods such as white bread, white rice, sugary foods such as chocolate #chocolate and donuts, and foods that contain added sugars.

Do carbohydrates make you fat? Only if you eat too many. Any food can make you fat if you eat too much of it. However, high sugar content in food will contribute to making you fat, and yes, sugar is a carbohydrate.

Sugar and refined processed foods (that usually contain sugar) supply quick energy to the body in the form of glucose. This is great if you are an athlete running a race or competing in sport. However, if you are not, the body will not use up all the glucose (the energy) and will either store it in the liver to use when needed, or in fat cells to be used in times of famine.

A word about Fibre - Fibre is the part of plant foods that we can't digest. It may seem strange but even though it isn't absorbed the the body it does all sorts of great stuff such as:

  • slowing down the absorption of nutrients eaten with it, including carbohydrates. This helps to stop blood sugar levels from peaking and dipping, thus reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. #diabetes

  • it helps lower blood cholesterol.

  • it keeps you feeling more full for longer

Avoid Added Sugars - if a food has added sugars, it will supply extra calories but little or no nutrients.

USDA food scientist, Shanthy Bowman, recently published a study on sugar in the American diet and said: “Americans are very aware of low-fat diets and because of that we’ve been eating more fat-free and low-fat products, but what many people don't know is that in many of these products, sugar is being substituted for fat, so we've really been trading fat for sugar.”

By avoiding sugar and eating healthy fats such as nuts and avocados, you will not feel as hungry and your cravings for more sugar will subside.

So there you have it - carbohydrates - good or evil? The answer is it depends on which carb you are talking about and how much of it you are eating!