Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

What is actually good for you!?

Good carbs vs bad carbs

There's so much noise about carbs! One minute you're told to load up to fuel your workout, then next it's all about cutting them out completely for Atkins/Paleo or the like... You'd be forgiven for being confused! 

The truth is that carbs are such a broad category and not all are the same - it’s the type, quality and quantity in our diet that is important to consider, as well as what you want to achieve.  Essentially, carbs make a great fuel but store as fat if you don't use them! 

So, here's the skinny on carbs, and how they can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on your goals. Do you know your good carbs from your bad...?

So, what are carbs?

Carbs are one of the three main nutrients that form a large part of our diet found in food – the others being fat and protein. Rarely you find foods that contain only one of these nutrients as most are a combination of the three but in varying amounts.

The main purpose of carbs in the diet is to provide energy. Most carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy – your ultimate workout fuel! But your body will store any unused carbs as fat for later use. Great if you're expecting a bleak winter of foraging in the wild, not so good if you're trying to lose weight!

So, choose carefully...

'Good' carbs
  • Fruits (apples/bananas/strawberries)
  • Vegetables (sweet potato/spinach/mushrooms)
  • Nuts (peanuts/almonds/hazelnuts)
  • Whole grains (oats/quinoa/brown rice)

Good carbs release slowly into your system, and raise blood sugar level gradually so you don't have peaks of and crashes. Unprocessed whole grains are your go to if you need slow-release carbs for your workout energy. You can also choose fruit and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to protect against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. A diet focusing on eating these carbs will be naturally low in sugar and tend to be low to moderate in calories. Great for weight loss, but make sure you eat enough whole grains to fuel your level of activity. 

'Bad' carbs
  • Sugary drinks (Coca cola/Pepsi/Vitaminwater)
  • Juices (grape/apple/mango)
  • Chocolate (choose quality dark chocolate)
  • Refined carbs (pastries/cookies/cakes)

Bad carbs come from highly processed foods and sugars, and usually raise blood sugar level too high or too quickly. These carbs are high in sugar and significantly lower in nutrients and fibre compared to whole foods. They break down more rapidly into glucose and enter your bloodstream faster to boost your energy quicker but will create real highs and lows which are potentially harmful. Bad carbs tend to be high in calories for a small portion. Basically they don't give you much bang for your buck! 

 

What makes some carbs good and some bad?

There are three different types of carbs: sugar, starch and fibre – these types are then divided into complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carb foods are high in fibre and starch taking longer to digest before using glucose for energy. Simple carb foods containing natural sugars are easily digested by the body and provide quick energy.

Sugars are sweet, short chain carbs found in foods. Free sugars that are added to food or drinks including biscuits, chocolate, fizzy drinks, cereals or yoghurts can raise blood sugar levels high and quick. It is important to note that some sugars that occur naturally such as honey, syrups, nectars and juices still count as free sugars.

Starch is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. Starches are long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.

Fibre is a diverse range of compounds particularly found in the cell walls of foods also from plants. For example: good sources of fibre would include most vegetables with the skins on, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and beans. Humans cannot digest fibre, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of them.

 

If you're already thinking about eating well, you're half way to a healthy lifestyle!

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