Not all carbs are created equal.
Written by Morgan Allen, Health Coach
Somewhere down the line of diet culture, fad dieting, and calorie counting, carbs were named the bad guys. An image developed around the word carbohydrate, symbolizing a sugary, calorically dense food, with fattening written all over it. Because of this, all carbs got a bad reputation, even the carbs that are good for us.
That's right. There are good carbs.
But the carb reputation isn't totally made up either, because certain carbs are in fact not good for you. The important thing is understanding the difference between the two and learning how to shift your mindset to allow good carbs in your diet without fear, because good carbs are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. So let’s break down the difference between bad carbs and good carbs.
Put simply, bad carbohydrates can be defined as anything made with processed, refined white flour, such as white bread, standard baked goods and sweets, bagels, pancakes, savory snacks, pasta, etc. These foods are classified as refined carbohydrates, which while typically full of sugars, also break down into sugar in our bodies, spiking insulin levels and triggering the body’s instinct to store fat.
This concept is known as the carbohydrate-insulin model.
Essentially, when we eat refined carbohydrates on a regular basis, our body’s natural metabolism of food into energy becomes stunted and overpowered by the amount of sugar produced from the carbs. This sends our body into overdrive in an attempt to produce the insulin necessary to help store all this new blood sugar.
When our insulin surges like this, it signals our body to stop using calories for energy and instead start storing them in fat cells. The result? Fewer calories are left available to fuel our muscles and other metabolically active tissues, convincing our brain that the body is not getting enough food for energy, leading to increased hunger, less energy, blood sugar crashes, fat storage, and weight gain.
Once this cycle begins, no fad diet can break it. Because our body thinks less energy is available, it will purposely slow down our metabolism to conserve energy, so lowering food intake or counting calories won’t change a thing.
To break the cycle, bad carbs need to be replaced by good carbs in the diet. Or better yet, only good carbs should be eaten to begin with and the whole cycle can be avoided.
Good carbohydrates are foods we classify as complex carbohydrates. Essentially, that means any whole and unprocessed carbohydrate, such as fruits, vegetables, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice noodles, quinoa, etc.
These good carbs play a big role in a healthy diet. They help keep our blood sugar levels stable, while also providing our body with plenty of energy to use throughout the day. This naturally boosts our body’s metabolism and allows the calories we consume during the day to be burned off, rather than stored as fat.
When we restrict good carbohydrates like these from our diet, we are denying our body its primary source of energy, not to mention depriving it of an important macronutrient group. And when we cut out carbs altogether, thinking we’re being healthy or attempting to lose a few pounds, we’re not even cutting out the real problem.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy, sugar is.
Changing the narrative from all carbs being the bad guy to sugar being the real culprit is important in understanding how we can appreciate good carbs as energy givers in our diet.
You can have your sweet potato, and eat it too!