By February 15, 2012

Are Carbs Really Evil?

As you start your diet and begin doing research on eating healthier, you’re going to come across the word “carb” — short for carbohydrates — a lot; and typically in a negative context. Some dieters don’t bother researching them beyond the belief that they’re something to be avoided at all costs. Carbs have essentially become the boogeyman of the dieting world. Some sort of mysterious entity that hides in certain foods and make you fat if you dare indulge in them.

Is it really that white and black? Well, the truth is that carbs are a bit more complicated than that. It’s true that some carbs can be very bad for you in excess, but there are also good carbs.

Different types of carbs digest differently. Some carbs are good for you and can help keep your insulin and blood sugar levels well balanced. Good carbs also tend to keep you feeling full, reducing the risk of cravings shortly after a meal.

Bad carbs tend to have the exact opposite effect. They digest so quickly that they can cause rapid fluctuations in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Many foods with bad carbs also tend to be highly fattening.

Finding a diet that works for you can take a lot of research, patience, and trial and error. Sadly, it’s not nearly as simple as blaming poor health on an unseen food-monster like “carbs” and cutting it from your diet. Dieting takes more than simply not eating a specific thing. It would be great if it was that way, which is probably why blaming everything on carbs has become so normal.

In truth, dieting is going to take a lot of careful balancing, getting lots of different foods into your diet and getting a proper level of exercise and activity into your lifestyle. When dieting, what you do eat can be just as important was what you don’t eat. Cutting out carbs will have limited results if you still aren’t getting all the vitamins and nutrients from healthy foods that you need.

Carbohydrates are complicated. But as a quick point of reference, “bad” carbs are typically going to be found in things like white rice, white flour, and nearly any processed food with high sugar content.

Some of the most infamous foods with bad carbs are pastas and breads.

“Good” carbs can be found in fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and whole grains. You’ve likely also heard the term “carbo-loading”. This is when athletes eat lots of good carbs just before a sporting event, such as a marathon; for the increase in energy they can burn. These carbs are better for you because they also contain nutrients your body needs. They’re not just wasted calories. They also have lots of fiber which is why their sugar content is absorbed slowly into your body instead of causing your glucose levels to spike.

When buying things like pastas and breakfast cereals, always check to see if they’re made from whole grain. You owe it to yourself to learn the difference between bad carbs and good carbs, depriving yourself of both can actually do more harm than good.

Eating a healthy diet means having a balance of many kinds of foods — so don’t toss out all the carbs.