Good vs Bad Carbs: Not All Carbs Are Equal
Carb stands for carbohydrate, which is one of three types of macronutrients in our diet. Unlike the other types of macronutrients (protein and fat), carbohydrates are available for immediate energy. If we don't need that energy the body stores it in the form of glycogen or fat.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Sugar is the common name for simple carbohydrates. The body quickly absorbs sugar into the bloodstream to use as energy. The reason sugar gets a bad rap is because it's absorbed so fast that it causes high blood sugar quicker than other types of carbohydrates. When blood sugar is high, the body uses what it can for energy and stores the rest as fat.
Complex carbohydrates take a little while to break down into sugar which means the blood sugar rise is slower and less dramatic. This gives your body time to use that sugar, instead of immediately storing it as fat.
So how can you tell the difference between a complex carb (good carb) and simple carb (bad carb)? It isn't always super clear, but in general, complex carbs or good carbs have:
- Higher fiber
- Higher protein and/or fat
- Are whole foods/natural/ or unprocessed
- Whole grains such as oats, whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa
- Sweet potatoes
- Chia seeds
- Fresh/frozen fruit
- Fresh/frozen vegetables
In general, bad carbs have:
- Low fiber
- Low protein and/or healthy fat
- Are highly processed
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, etc)
- Fruit juice
- Processed flours and baked goods
- Candy, ice cream, frozen yogurt
- Potato chips or fries
- Sugar in any form (sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, etc)
It's best to choose high-quality carbs (aka good carbs) the majority of the time and leave simple carbs for desserts and special treats.