By saying they’re bad for you, new-age diets have given carbohydrates a bad rap. Often, people blame carbohydrates for weight gain, which isn’t always the truth because many factors contribute to weight gain, and blaming one macronutrient isn’t the right way to go.
Even though carbs can contribute to weight gain, it’s mostly a factor caused by not understanding which carbs to eat and how to eat carbs. Eating hotdogs and pizzas daily can cause weight gain. However, the same can’t be said when it comes to whole grains.
Some carbs can be better for you than others, and thats what brings about the difference. The body needs carbs as part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates are naturally present in plant-based foods.
Difference between good carbs and bad carbs
There are two forms of carbs, complex and simple carbs. Simple carbs are considered to be bad carbs, while complex carbs are good carbs. Simple carbs contain only some of the nutrients because they’ve been removed. The body digests simple carbs pretty quickly, which causes a spike in blood sugar, making you feel hungry after eating.
Due to the short-lived fullness caused by simple carbs, simple carbs can eventually cause overeating and weight gain. In the long run, this causes diabetes and high blood pressure.
Typical foods with simple carbs include:
- Refined pasta
- White bread
- White rice
- Refined dough
Complex carbs are good carbs since they are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, slowing digestion. Not digesting food as fast causes a slow but steady release of glucose into the body, preventing blood sugar spikes.
Opting for a whole grain alternative of all the popular simple carbs will provide your body with the same type of food but with more benefits. You often find that whole grain alternatives contain less added sugar, preventing your blood sugar from spiking.
Complex carbs naturally occur in the forms of:
- Beans, peas, and lentils
Types of carbohydrates
There are three main types of carbohydrates. These include:
- Starch is a complex carbohydrate made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch is naturally found in vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, and whole grains. Starches provide your body with vitamins and minerals. It takes your body longer to break it down; you feel fuller for longer, and your blood sugar remains stable.
- Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate naturally found in some foods like milk and milk products, fruits, and vegetables. Fruit sugar is known as fructose, milk sugar is known as lactose and table sugar is sucrose. Many foods, like candy, soda, and baked goods, contain added sugar. Sugars are simple carbohydrates, and the body breaks them down easily, causing blood sugar levels to rise quickly and fall equally quickly. Thats why eating sugary foods often results in having a burst of energy followed by feelings of tiredness. Some people have intolerances to the different types of sugars, with lactose intolerance being the most common. To know if you have a sugar intolerance, you can take an Intolerance Test.
- Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cooked dry beans, and peas. Your body can’t break down most of the fiber, and most of it passes through your digestive tract, stimulating and aiding digestion. Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar, leaves you feeling fuller for longer, and regulates blood sugar.
How many carbohydrates do you need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends carbohydrates make up 45% to 65% of the calories you consume daily. So typically, you’ll consume between 225 to 325 grams a day. When eating packaged food, you’ll often find the number of carbs of that food on the Nutrition Facts Label. The label will also show sugars, fiber, and starch in the food.
The number of carbs you consume daily depends on your age, gender, and medical conditions you may be suffering from. Your weight goals and activity levels will also determine the amount of carbs you consume. People with diabetes count carbs to help manage their blood sugar levels.
USDA also recommends that when plating your food, you fill half with fruits and vegetables, one with whole grains, and the other with proteins.
Is a low-carb diet healthy?
While all forms of diets have their benefits, there is always a catch. A low-carb diet will often result in weight loss. Popular low-carb diets include a ketogenic diet and an Atkins diet. Some professionals recommend a keto diet for people with epilepsy, amongst other conditions.
Even though a low-carb diet may seem like a good deal, it takes time to follow long-term. Restricting the amount of carbs in your diet increases animal fats and oils, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Experts are still determining whether a low-carb diet is healthy for you; hence, it’s necessary to get your healthcare provider’s opinion before trying it out.
Benefits of carbohydrates on your health
Even though carbohydrates have been given a bad reputation, there are vital for your health for many reasons. These include:
Carbohydrates provide your body with energy. These macronutrients are the body’s primary source of energy. During digestion, your body breaks down starches into simple sugars, which the body absorbs into the bloodstream, known as blood glucose.
After digestion, blood sugar is then absorbed into the body’s cells, where it helps with insulin blood glucose is used by the body to give you energy, thus fuelling your activities, including breathing and thinking. Extra glucose is, however, stored in the liver, muscles, and other cells for later use. The body converts extra glucose into fats.
When your diet contains lots of fruits and vegetables, you have a lot of fiber, leaving you feeling fuller for longer and controlling your weight. These fruits and vegetables also provide more bulk with fewer calories which causes a decrease in your calorie intake, causing weight loss.
Even though many people recommend a low-carb diet, few studies show that a diet composed of healthy cabs can cause weight gain or obesity.
According to studies, a diet comprising dietary fiber and whole foods can lower your risk of heart disease and strokes. Fiber also helps prevent blood sugar spikes and helps with digestion, among other benefits. A diet full of fiber helps keep your digestive tract healthy.
How to consume carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are macronutrients and are an essential part of your diet as they provide various vital nutrients. Still, not all crabs are good for you; you must learn which ones to consume. Here are some ways you can choose carbohydrates to ensure you have a balanced diet:
- Pick whole grains: Whole grains are a better source of carbs than refined grains. Whole grains are good sources of nutrients such as B vitamins. When refined, they go through a process that strips part of the grain, losing some nutrients and fiber.
- Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables prevents you from consuming added sugars often in processed fruits and vegetables. You need to consume fruit juice in measured amounts. Dried fruits have concentrated natural sugars with more calories; you must consume them in measured quantities. Fresh whole fruits and vegetables will offer you more bulk and fiber with fewer calories.
- Consume more beans, peas, and lentils: Beans, peas, and lentils are the most versatile and nutritious foods. They’re low in fat but high in iron, folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. They also contain fiber and are a good source of protein, especially when trying to limit meat consumption.
- Eat low-fat dairy products: Dairy products and byproducts are good sources of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, and other vitamins. Consider consuming a low-fat version to limit calories and saturated fats. Watch out for dairy products that contain added sugars.
- Limit added sugars: Added sugars isnt harmful in small amounts. However, there are no health benefits to consuming added sugars. Consuming less than 10% of added sugars daily in food or drink is recommended. Consuming more added sugars increases your daily calorie intake, which is preferable.
Carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet. They have a lousy reputation since they can cause weight gain if one consumes refined carbohydrates in high amounts. Consuming whole foods will help you reap the benefits of having carbs in your diet. Choose your carbohydrates wisely. If you get symptoms every time you eat certain carbohydrates, you need to take an Intolerance Test which helps you know your food intolerances to avoid those foods.