So many diets tell us that we need to cut out the carbs. They’re supposed to be bad for us, whether they raise the blood sugar levels or cause us to gain weight.
However, there are positives about eating carbs. Our bodies do need them to help fuel them. We need carbs for our energy levels, and not just the short term energy levels. Carbs help to fuel us throughout the day and can help to satisfy our hunger levels.
You’ve likely heard that there are good carbs and bad carbs. Many of us may think that this is a myth. Just how can something that causes our blood sugar levels to rise be good for us? How can some types of carbs be good to eat and others be ones that we should avoid?
Well, it’s all to do with the total makeup of the food. It’s not all about the carbs, but how they’re made and everything else added to the food. It depends on protein and fibre count, as well as carbohydrate levels.
Here’s all you need to know about the good and bad carbs. This article will cover everything you could possibly need to know, so you get all the right food groups in your diet without causing issues for your health.
Sometimes the Body Needs Sugar
While we try to keep our sugar levels to a minimum, it’s no lie that our bodies will need sugars now and then. This is especially the case when it comes to doing large amounts of exercise on a daily basis. Sugars provide the best source of fuel, because they’re quick and easy for the body to consume and use.
This is only when you’re doing an hour of exercise on a daily basis. Those who regularly train for marathons or want to become Olympic athletes will find that their coaches recommend sugars on a daily basis with their exercises.
So, not all sugars need to be permanently removed from the body. That doesn’t mean you get to eat sugars all day because of your exercise levels though. It’s important to follow a healthy and balanced diet, despite the amount of exercise you’re doing. Too many sugars will lead to health problems. Check out more info on sugar withdrawal headache relief here
You can still end up with too many sugars, and eating too many of these carbs will just lead to you gaining weight and raising your blood sugar levels. You put yourself at risk of health problems, like Type II diabetes.
But what about throughout the rest of the day? Does that mean carbs are a no-no? Not at all!
Most of the time, you will need starchy carbs. These are the ones that break down slowly in your body and tend to be full of fibre, too. They don’t raise the blood sugar in the same way that sugary carbs do. They fuel your body over a longer period of the day, so you don’t feel the need to eat as much. You’ll consume fewer calories, so weight gain isn’t as big of an issue.
In short, sugar vs. starch is your bad vs. good carbs. The bad carbs are full of sugars, while the good ones are full of starch. This is just a basic breakdown, though. We’ll go into more of this breakdown and the types of foods that you can eat now.
Watch Out for the Fake Carbs
Let’s touch on the sugary carbs to begin with. When we say that we need to eat some sugars to fuel our bodies again after a workout, this doesn’t mean opting for those carbs that are called “fake carbs.”
The “fake carbs” are full of empty calories. They give you no nutrition at all, but are full of calories that will make you gain weight. The lack of nutrition means that you don’t get that feeling of being full. The food isn’t going you any good, so there’s just no point in eating it.
But doesn’t it feel like you get the energy that you need? Surely you’re giving your brain the stuff that it needs, so that has to be a good thing.
This is where the bad crabs mostly come into play. The sugar within them isn’t good for you, and the sugar makes you crave more of it. Studies have shown that sugars are more addictive than hard drugs. It’s not that your body really needs the sugars to keep going, but that your brain thinks you do. You will start to go through withdrawal phases when you stop letting yourself have as much sugar as you once did.
These withdrawals are good for you. Remember the damage that the sugar is doing to your body. It’s forcing more insulin and increasing your chances of becoming a diabetic. By reducing your sugar intake, you could reverse the damage of the Type II diabetes to the point of no longer needing medication to control it. This is something you should discuss with your doctor, as he will want to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and insulin levels anyway.
The fake carbs don’t give you any other nutrients apart from the sugar. You feel like you’re getting an energy boost, but you’re really getting a sugar high. As soon as the sugar is removed from the system—and that will happen quickly—you will end up with a sugar crash. You’ll start craving more sweet foods to get the sugar high again. Remember, it’s just like a drug!
So, whatever you do, you want to avoid the fake carbs. These are the very bad carbs for you. They offer no substance or benefit at all.
The fake carbs are those that are refined. They include the likes of:
- And many other similar items
These are the types of foods that our forefathers wouldn’t even think are food. Many of them also have added fats and salts, making them even worse for our bodies.
But does that mean you have to cut them out completely? There is the danger that if you cut certain items out completely that you run the risk of gorging on them later. This is a very real possibility with some personality types.
There’s nothing wrong with the food in moderation. By this, we mean once or twice a week, and only in small amounts. The options that have the least amount of sugar are better for you.
Dark chocolate is one of the best options. A couple of squares of dark chocolate a day can help to nourish your body because of the cocoa levels. The dark chocolate doesn’t have the same sugar addition that milk or white chocolate does, making it a better option.
It’s just worth remembering while eating these carbs that they’re not the good ones. They’re not offering you any benefit, except temporarily making you feel better. They’ll lead to a bigger waistline and more health issues.
What Are the Good Carbs?
Now that you know more about the bad, it’s time to look into the good carbs. Could carbohydrates really be that good for you?
As I’ve mentioned, our bodies need carbs. Without them, we run the risk of not having enough energy throughout the day.
When it comes to exercising, some protein bars will have the sugary carbs added in. These are excellent for keeping the energy levels up; getting a boost just after the exercising plan. There are other after exercise bars or meal plans to follow to get some of the sugary carbs that your body will need. There’s no need to eat the empty carbs mentioned above.
As for the rest of the good carbs, it’s all about finding the starchy options. Starchy carbs break down slowly over the course of the day, very much like fibre and protein. You get the energy spread out throughout the day, so you have the ability to do everything that you could possibly need in the day.
And that isn’t all. You will get other nutrients from these types of carbs. Many of them will include various vitamins and minerals that your body needs throughout the day. Yes, you can really get vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like iron, calcium, and even potassium from your good carbohydrates. It’s all about choosing them carefully to make sure you have a healthy, balanced, and satisfying diet.
What about the fibre and protein? Well, many of the healthy carbs will have some of these included. This is what makes some of the traditionally considered bad carbs good. The fibre and protein help to eliminate the negative effects of the sugars in the body. They help to dilute the sugars so they don’t cause the blood sugars to rise.
This isn’t just great for your overall health, but it will help with your weight loss efforts. When your blood sugar levels rise, your body stores the fats and calories for use later. However, it doesn’t get around to using up those calories and fats, so you end up gaining weight instead. And this can cause a difficult cycle. Not only are you gaining weight, but you’re upset about gaining weight. You then eat more cakes to try and make you feel better.
If you focus on the good carbs, you won’t see the weight gain. The carbs don’t sugar in the blood, so the body isn’t encouraged to store calories and fat for later. You end up burning through the calories that you put in your body.
In fact, the majority of the healthy carbs are lower in calories than the bad carbs. They can even be lower in calories than foods that are high in fibre and protein! It’s all about choosing the best foods for your diet.
Complex and Simple Carbs: Good or Bad
Now it’s time to break this down. Just what type of foods should be focus on more to get the good carbs in our diets?
Good and bad carbs are better known as complex and simple carbs. Simple carbs are the ones that we’ve already talked about: those that break down quickly. They cause the rise in the glucose levels and we’re at a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes because we’ve chosen to eat them.
The complex carbs do the opposite. Really, the names suggest which ones will be which. Complex carbs need to be broken down in stages because they’re, well, more complex. They get make it through the digestive system and out the other side without causing a blood sugar spike.
These are the carbs that are highly recommended, no matter what your exercise levels are. It’s just important to get the right amount of the carbs for the amount of exercise you do. If you use more energy throughout the day, you’ll need to replace it through more good carbs. Those who do exercise a lot, will need to get many more complex carbs. While proteins help to repair the muscle, the carbs give the body the energy to let the protein get to work.
Does This Mean All Sweet Food Is Banned?
So, we’ve looked at cakes and candy as food to remove from the diet. They’re sweet foods that will cause the blood sugar spikes. But does this mean that all sweet food is banned? Does this mean you have to get rid of the sugar or sweeteners that you use in your diet?
It’s not just about sweet tastes. It’s about the refined processes that go into making the food. There are plenty of naturally sweet food that will be perfectly find to eat in moderation. You can even add some sweeteners to your diet if you need to trick your brain into thinking you’re having something sweet.
In short: no, not all sweet food is banned. It’s all about picking the right type of sweet food. It’s about looking at the glycaemic index in food.
Just What Is the Glycaemic Index?
The glycaemic index will give you a good idea over the types of carbs you’re eating. It’s really an indication of the amount of sugars you’re getting in your diet—the ones that are going to cause health problems later. You’ll usually it is called the GI for short, and there is a specific GI diet if you want to keep the levels of bad carbs you consume to a minimum.
A food’s GI value is scientifically measured. This is a scale that is followed by the World Health Organisation and other major health corporations and organisations to make sure people get the most nutrition possible from their diets.
The measuring of a food’s GI level is determined through studies with the average healthy person. 10 people are used for the studies, and are given foods and then finger-prick blood samples are taken throughout the night. These studies will all go through an overnight fast first, and the testing is done over a two hour period. This helps to check the level of glucose in the body.
The foods that cause the blood sugar spikes will be given a higher GI value to those that don’t cause the same spikes. The lower the number, the better it will be for your blood sugar levels. These are the foods that you most want to get in your diet. The numbers are 1-100, with anything below 50 being okay for you. Those below 25 are good for you.
But you may be surprised to hear that some healthy foods will be high on the GI list. Fruits in particular tend to have higher GI values than some meat and carb products. This is due to the natural sugars, which brings us to the question again: does this mean we have to ban all sweet foods?
It’s all about moderation. A small amount of fruit isn’t going to be that bad for you. It’s not the fruit that causes your Type II diabetes, after all! There is the risk of eating too much fruit, as some people replace their refined sweet treats with the sweet tasting fruit, especially the likes of pineapple and bananas.
The health recommendations are that you eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This is 5 portions of both fruit and vegetables together, not 5 potions of each! The vegetables have fewer natural sugars than fruits, so you want to focus on them more throughout the day. Have a portion or 2 of fruit and make up the rest with the vegetables.
When you do opt for fruit, always eat it in its natural form. Dried or juiced fruit are going to be worst for you. Fruit as a whole is full of nutrients and fibre. The fibre helps to keep the natural sugars more complex in nature, avoiding too much of a glucose spike. When you take out the fibre through juicing or take out the water through dehydration, you make it easier for the body to consume the high levels of natural sugars.
Natural or not, sugars end up doing the same thing; you will still end up with the high amounts of glucose, so your body needs to push out the insulin. You end up with weight gain issues and health problems, because you didn’t get the natural sugars in the best way possible.
And if you are going to have sweeteners with your meals, make sure they are in their natural form. Raw honey and maple syrup for example are two of your best options. Stevia is becoming a popular natural sweetener for your needs if you want to use that. The natural options don’t have quite the same blood sugar spikes, but they still have some. You will need to make sure you keep your glucose spikes to a minimum.
This doesn’t mean that you must follow the GI diet. This is just one way of helping you reduce the amount of bad carbs that you eat. Unfortunately, it can also take out some of the good carbs. When you look at the list of foods that are supposedly bad for you, you may have surprised at the nutrient-filled foods that are on the list.
There are many other ways to reduce the amount of bad carbs that you put in your system. It’s worth looking at various diets and ways of eating to find something that works specifically for you.
Can We Really Not Cut Out All Carbs?
Wouldn’t it be easier just to cut out all carbs? We wouldn’t have to work out which foods had a high GI and which ones were low, would we? Surely we could just cut out everything that has the potential for being bad for us?
Well, I’ve said that the body needs carbs. This isn’t a lie.
In fact, the body needs some glucose. This is what fuels the energy levels, and without it the body has to turn to other stores in the body to get the energy. Sure, for weight loss this can be temporarily a benefit, but what about when your diet is completely done with? How do you make sure you keep the energy levels up? And do you really get enough energy from the stored fats if you decide to do a lot of exercise?
It can be difficult to work out all of the numbers, but it’s better than completely stripping out the carbs from the diet. Actually, stripping out all carbs is going to be even harder for you. Remember that fruits are full of carbs. Even some vegetables have carbs. And yes, carbs can contain some of the necessary nutrients.
How are you going to get the fruits and vegetables without eating carbs? Do you really want to go through all the food you have and find out if it doesn’t have any carbohydrates at all? Wouldn’t it just be better to take a quick glance at the total number of carbs to judge if the food is good or bad?
Really, a low carb lifestyle is better than a no carb one. This will mean that you still get plenty of nutrients from your lifestyle, without having to rely on three food groups to do the job of four. You’ll also find it much easier to choose and find food, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on everything. A low carb diet also allows for a day where you want to enjoy something sweet and refined, rather than completely cutting the food groups out.
The majority of people won’t find a problem with adding some carbs into their diet. Even the likes of Atkins and Paleo diets which are low carbs don’t encourage cutting out all carbs forever. They want you to make healthier choices when it comes to your food.
Oh, and you will also save money. The processed junk is expensive in the long term. You need to buy more of it to feel satisfied throughout the day, which means you end up wasting more money on your extra calories that your body just doesn’t need. If you opted for low carb diets that focus on the complex options when you do eat them, you’ll save money and be healthier overall.
Getting Over Your Sugar Addiction
Trying to switch to a low carb diet isn’t always going to be easy. There are high chances that you have given into the sugar addiction. Your brain keeps telling you that you need more of the refined junk when really your body needs more nutrients and substantial carbs.
I can’t tell you this more firmly: sugar addiction is real. It’s worse than illegal drugs when it comes to the addictive qualities. And it’s so easy to get at the same time! This is especially the case with refined sugars. Natural sugars aren’t as bad for the body. They don’t seem to have the same addictive qualities as refined sugars, but that doesn’t mean they’re great in large quantities.
So, to be able to make a switch to a healthier diet and start eating more good carbs, you need to get over your sugar addiction. It’s time to take some steps to succeed, and the first is being willing to fight against the sugar withdrawals.
The withdrawals aren’t going to be pretty. They lead to shakes, nausea, headaches, and much more. You’ll feel like your body is completely against something that is so much better for it. You’re left trying to tackle your brain, as it constantly tells you that you just need sugar to make it all better. This isn’t going to be easy to do. I’ve been there when I gave up excess sugar in my diet—note, excess!
If you find it easier, find someone who will help you with your sugar cravings and the withdrawals. Those in AA or NA have sponsors to help them through their cravings and the darker times. When you’re giving up sugar, find someone you trust who will be able to talk you out of reaching for the bad stuff when you really want it. This could be a sibling, partner, or even a friend. Maybe both of you need help with giving up sugar in your diet and cutting out the bad carbs.
Now that you’re ready to take the step, it’s time to get rid of the bad carbs in your house. You’ll likely have many that you never really considered, including chocolate spread, some jams, fruit juices, cookies, and cakes. Even your homemade ones are going to be bad, unless you’ve made them specifically for your low carb and low GI diet.
You can get rid of them however you want: donate or throw them out. Many workplaces love their colleagues bringing in cakes and cookies, so why not pop them in the staff room and let everyone enjoy?
Now it’s time to get the good carbs in the house. Make sure you stock the fridge and cupboards with the likes of:
- Potatoes, even sweet potatoes
- Brown pasta and rice
- Brown bread
- Fruits and vegetables
These are all full of starchy carbs that will give you the energy throughout the day. The sweet potatoes are popular options because they make you feel like you’re having something sweet and unhealthy. Potatoes and sweet potatoes can also be cooked in various ways to make it feel like you’re getting potato chips and fries.
When it comes to snacking or desserts, opt for natural sugars to get that sweet kick. You can use Stevia and honey to top off your fruit. It’s also possible to make your own ice cream without all the excess sugars.
There are just so many recipes now that you’ll barely feel like you’ve give up the sugar. The withdrawals will be the only things that remind you, but you’ll soon get over them. In fact, tricking the brain into thinking you’re getting the sweet foods will help you keep your withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
It takes 6 weeks to change a habit. You should find that after 6 weeks, you won’t have the same sugar withdrawals. You’ll be through the worst, and will be able to congratulate yourself for taking the steps to a low GI diet.
Can I Reverse the Damage of Bad Carbs?
When you give up sugar and focus on a diet full of good carbs, will it be possible to reverse all the damage you’ve already done? The good news is that it is possible. The trick is to follow a healthier diet overall.
Getting rid of the bad carbs isn’t just going to do you any food if you don’t change other elements of your diet. If you’re still adding in the high fat or the high amounts of sodium, there will still be damage to your body. If you’re going to have a day a week where you binge on bad carbs and spend the rest of the week with good carbs, you will find it much harder to reverse damage.
Some Type II diabetes patients have found that it is possible to reverse the damage done by switching to a low GI diet. This isn’t just because of the lack of carbs, but because they’re focusing more on the fibre and protein levels in their diet. They feel fuller, so they’re not consuming as many calories. The bad carbs aren’t there, so their glucose levels aren’t high. The body is encouraged to consume those previously stored calories because of the lack of calories you’re getting.
Your body won’t have to deal with the blood sugar spikes with a change in your diet. There won’t be as much insulin, and your body will start to repair the damage that once happened. Some people who have made substantial changes to their diet have found that they’ve lowered the amount of medication they need to take for their Type II diabetes.
It is also possible to lose weight when you reverse your sugar intake. Remember that your body starts to burn the calories you’ve eaten. This is especially the case if you make a change to a low GI diet and reduce the amount of calories you consume throughout the day. You’ll also want to increase the amount of calories you burn by doing more exercise.
Reducing your weight will also help to reverse some of the damage that the bad carbs have done. You’ll be able to improve your heart health, which improves the health of your other organs. You’ll also reduce the amount of visceral fat you have around your middle, so your organs won’t be as enlarged.
The bad carbs will also run the risk of causing poor mental health. Just think about how the increasing weight, poor medical health, and constantly energy boosts and slumps affect your mental health. You’re left feeling annoyed and irritated, and this can lead to depression. Rather than battling your depression with a healthy diet, you’re likely to eat more bad carbs and keep the cycle going.
When you opt to get rid of the bad carbs and focus on the good carbs, you’ll help to increase the nutrients that your body gets. Your weight will drop and you could find that your medical issues are completely reversed. If not completely reversed, they are at least improved. You’re able to do more and feel like your old self again.
There is also the ability to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the body by reducing the amount of bad carbs that you eat. This has been proven in a study in Hawaii. During the 19th century, the Hawaiians were trim and fit, but they now tend to be larger and unhealthy. The study encouraged the Hawaiian test subjects to eat as much as they like but of the unrefined, good carbs.
In the end, the Hawaiians ate fewer carbs. They felt fuller from the good carbs, and they had more energy to do things around the island. The study showed that their cholesterol levels dropped as well as their weight.
It didn’t take long for the weight to drop, either. Hawaiians lost 17 pounds in three weeks on average. This can sound like a lot, but it is a healthy way of losing weight. It just shows how much water and sugars your body is holding onto when you eat too many of the bad carbs. It shows how much good a good carb diet or low GI diet will do for you.
It’s Still About the Overall Diet
With this look into bad and good carbs, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of just looking at these for a healthier lifestyle. This is the wrong way to look at it. It’s about the overall diet when it comes to a good lifestyle.
Fibre is important, but that doesn’t mean you eat anything that is “high in fibre.” This is a label put on many foods because they have added fibre put into them. They’ll still have plenty of sugars, but there is the misconception that they’re better for you because of the fibre content. When it comes to getting more fibre, you want to find foods that are high in natural fibre.
The same applies to protein. You’ll want food that naturally has plenty of protein in to help build the muscles and tendons. And don’t forget about fat. You want food that has monounsaturated fats compared to the saturated varieties, regardless of the carb levels.
Even foods that are made up of good carbs aren’t necessarily going to be good for you. It’s important to look at all the ingredients. Those that are high in flour are worse than those that are made up of natural sugars, for example. Even if you’ve made low GI friendly desserts, you can’t get anything better than fresh fruits and vegetables for all your nutrients.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs: It’s Now Time for You to Choose
There are good and bad carbs out there. Following a no carb diet isn’t going to be good for you. Our bodies need the carbohydrates for the energy, but they need the right types of carbohydrates.
Your good carbs are those that are full of nutrients and other food groups. They’re natural sugars or starchy ingredients that won’t cause the high blood sugar spikes as soon as you eat them. The good carbs will keep you fuller for longer, so you’ll end up eating fewer calories. Bad carbs do the exact opposite, and you’re at a higher risk of Type II diabetes and weight gain.
This doesn’t mean you can just focus on the carb content. When it comes to a healthy diet—whether for a healthier lifestyle or weight loss—you want to focus on the overall benefits of the diet. Make sure everything you eat or drink is going to fuel your body in a good way. You’ll soon reduce your risk of health problems and can even reverse some conditions.