These days it can be a little confusing to understand what is considered “healthy” and “unhealthy.” Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation in the past, but they shouldn’t all be avoided. Our bodies need these carbs, and the right ones are good for you. To help you better understand what is healthy and unhealthy, we’ll explain which carbs are good for you and which are bad.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
We know some foods are “good” for your body and others are “bad.” White bread is bad for you, while 100% whole grain bread is good for you. The comparison is similar to the difference between eating french fries and beans. All of these foods have carbohydrates, but some are better for you than others. How are we supposed to know which carbs are good and which are bad?
Most good carbs are also an excellent source of fiber, which your body needs. These good carbs are absorbed into your system slowly and help prevent spikes in blood sugar, which you want to avoid. “Good” carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Basically, if it is a good source of fiber, then it’s a “good” carb. Another name for good carbs is “complex” carbohydrates. Complex carbs contain longer chains of sugar molecules, which are more slowly broken down by the body.
Foods such as white bread and white rice have been processed, taking out much of the fiber. A lot of sugar is also added to most processed foods, making them a source of “bad” carbs. These added sugars will increase your blood sugar dramatically. These sugars are supposed to be quick energy, but they are usually stored in the body as fat. These bad carbs are also called “simple” carbohydrates. They are easy to digest and provide less energy compared to complex carbs. More examples of simple carbs include soda, candy, artificial syrups, potatoes, and pastries. The best way to avoid these types of carbs is by avoiding fried, sugary, and processed foods.
The Importance of Carbs
Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source. They are also where we get most of our fiber, which assists our digestive system in working properly. Fiber makes us “regular.” Did you know that eating carbohydrates also decreases your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and colon cancer? Getting 45%–65% of your daily calories from healthy carbs, 20%–35% from fat, and 10%–35% from protein is considered a healthy diet.
When you cut out carbs, you don’t get fiber. It’s that simple. Not only will cutting carbs disrupt your digestive system, it can promote weight gain, which is what we want to avoid when we choose to cut out carbs in the first place. So long Atkins!
Men 50 years or younger should eat 38 grams of fiber per day, while women of the same age should eat 25 grams. Men older than 50 should consume 30 grams of fiber, and women of the same age should consume 21 grams. Are you getting enough?