Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates

Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates

We’ve all heard the phrase “carbs are the enemy,” but what does that really mean? Carbohydrates aren’t only found in bread, rice and pasta, they are found even in a banana.

There are two different types of carbohydrates: complex carbs (GOOD) and simple carbs (BAD). Complex carbs require our bodies to work harder to digest, therefore energy is released over a longer time. Good carbs are in their “natural” state, for the most part. Think whole grain breads, bran cereal, green vegetables, and fresh fruits. Complex carbs are high in fiber and nutrients, have a low glycemic index, and help stimulate the metabolism.

On the other end, simple carbohydrates (BAD) are smaller molecules of sugar that are digested quickly. The energy digested is stored as glycogen and if it is not used (or burned off by exercise) immediately, turns into fat. Simple carbs are low in fiber and nutrients, have a high glycemic index, provide the body with high blood glucose levels (those after-pasta-tired feelings) and are basically “empty calories” that turn into sugar and are later converted into fat. Think: candy and desserts, sugary cereal, soda and sugary drinks, refined breads.

Choose healthier carbs:

  • Bread/Cereal: All bran cereals and wheat bread instead of corn flakes and white bread.
  • Pasta/Rice: Wheat spaghetti instead of white. Or our favorite substitute – quinoa or spaghetti squash. Aim to choose whole grains such as oats, rye, millet, beans, and legumes.
  • Beverages: Unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of regular milk. And it’s time to skip the soda altogether. Try sparkling water instead.
  • Fruits: Berries, apples, and oranges instead of bananas and pineapples.
  • Vegetables: Spinach, tomatoes and sweet potato instead of baked potatoes and corn.
  • Snacks: Cashews and almonds instead of pretzels and popcorn.

To keep in mind:

  • Skip refined and processed foods altogether.
  • Read the label to see if there is added sugar. Be wary of the “-oses” like high fructose corn syrup.
  • Try to have 40% of your total caloric intake come from complex carbohydrates.
  • Avoid the lure of low-fat and low-carb foods, which contain a sizable amount of calories from sugar
  • To know if a packaged food is made of simple or complex carbohydrates, look at the label so that you know what exactly you’re eating. If the first ingredient is whole-wheat flour or whole-oat flour, it’s likely going to be a complex carbohydrate.

Choose wisely and remember that carbs don’t always have to be the enemy!