We’ve all heard the phrase “carbs are the enemy.” But what does that really mean? Are all carbs so bad? Not really. Not all carbs are created equal. So let’s look at good vs bad carbohydrates.
The Two Types of Carbs
There are basically two different types of carbs: complex carbs (GOOD) and simple carbs (BAD). Complex carbs make our bodies work harder to digest. Therefore they release more energy over time. Good carbs are in their natural state. 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 stimulate metabolism.
On the other hand, simple carbs digest quickly. The energy is stored as glycogen and if it is not used or burned off by exercise immediately, it turns into fat. Simple carbs are low in fiber and nutrients, have a high glycemic index, and are empty calories that turn into sugar and later converted into fat. They also raise the blood glucose levels, which cause those after-pasta-tired feelings. Think candy, desserts, sugary cereal, soda and sugary drinks, and refined breads.
Know Your Carbs
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. You could also 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 “-ose” 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.
- Know if a packaged food is made of complex carbs by looking at the label. If the first ingredient is whole-wheat flour or whole-oat flour, it’s likely going to be a complex carbohydrate.
Keep the good vs bad carbohydrates in mind. Have a look at our meal plans and see if you find a match with us. Choose wisely and remember that carbs don’t always have to be the enemy!