Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs

Carbs tend to get a bad rap these days. From low-carb to high-carb diets, which one is best? The answer is not so simple. Carbs have an important function: They provide energy. If you don’t eat enough, you can feel sluggish, unfocused and unmotivated. On the other hand, consume too many of the wrong kind of carbs and you risk gaining body fat or developing a chronic disease, such as diabetes. Here’s a crash course on carbs so you’ll choose foods that are best for you.

What Is a Carb?

Carbohydrates come from two natural sources—plants and grains (think fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, rice, pastas, etc.). They’re also found in sugary foods and junk foods like donuts, ice cream, soda, juice, chips, candy and French fries.

Simple Carbs = Bad Carbs

Simple carbohydrates are made of fast-digesting sugars. When you eat simple carbs, your insulin spikes, and this causes a rapid flow of sugar into your bloodstream. The sugar is stored for energy as glycogen and if not used immediately gets converted to fat. This is how you gain weight and develop type 2 diabetes.

You can pinpoint simple carbs by reading food labels. Avoid foods that are high in sugar
(10 grams or more per serving) and low in fiber (less than 3 grams of fiber per serving). Bad carbs are generally found in highly processed foods that lack nutritional value and are loaded with hidden sugars and fats.

Examples of foods most likely to contain bad carbs: white bread, white pasta, baked desserts, ice cream, fried foods, snack foods, sugary cereals and sugary beverages.

Why Simple Carbs are Bad For You:

• Lack fiber and other important nutrients that keep you full and satisfied

• Contribute to weight gain and uncontrolled blood sugar

• Cause high blood sugar that makes you feel tired and sluggish

Complex Carbs = Good Carbs

Complex carbs are fiber-rich compounds that cause your body to work harder to digest. When you eat complex carbs, your body releases insulin more slowly. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. When working properly, insulin allows energy to be released over time and makes you less likely to store body fat. Complex carbs also help your body maintain healthy cholesterol levels. If you eat carbs with healthy fats and/or lean proteins, they digest even slower, which is good for your overall well-being.

Good carbs are rich in vitamins and minerals, packed with fiber, and are primarily made of water.

Examples of good carbs: whole grain breads, high fiber cereals, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.

Why complex Carbs are Good For You:

• High in fiber and other important nutrients

• Help control blood sugar and maintain energy levels

• Leave you feeling more full and satisfied

• Help improve cholesterol levels

How many carbs should I eat per day?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of carbohydrates is 30 to 50 percent of your daily caloric intake.

Shoshana Pritzker is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist on Long Island, New York. She works to promote a healthy lifestyle for her clients. Her personalized, direct approach to nutrition takes the guesswork out of eating, ensuring clients successfully meet their goals.