Good and Bad Carbohydrates
Whether you're trying to lose weight or just want to eat
healthier, you may be confused by the news you're hearing
about carbohydrates. With so much attention focused on
protein diets, there's been a consumer backlash against
carbohydrates. As a result, many people misunderstand the
role that carbohydrates play in a healthy diet.
Carbohydrates aren't all good or all bad. Some kinds promote
health while others, when eaten often and in large
quantities, may increase the risk for diabetes and coronary
What are carbohydrates?
Carbs (short for
carbohydrates) come from a wide
array of foods - bread, fruit, vegetables, rice, beans,
milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, corn, and
cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms. The most
common and abundant ones are sugars, fibres, and starches.
The basic building blocks of all carbohydrates are sugar
The digestive system handles all carbohydrates in much the
same way - it breaks them down (or tries to break them down)
into single sugar molecules, since only these are small
enough to absorb into the bloodstream. It also converts most
digestible carbohydrates into glucose (also known as blood
sugar), because cells are designed to use this as a
universal energy source. This is why carbohydrates can make
us feel energetic. Carbohydrates fuel our body. Your body
stores glucose reserves in the muscles in the form of
glycogen ready to be used when we exert ourselves.
Carbohydrates are the highest octane - the most desirable
fuel source for your body's energy requirements. If you
don't have an adequate source of carbohydrate your body may
scavenge from dietary protein and fat to supply glucose. The
problem is when you've depleted your stores of glycogen
(stored glucose in muscle and lean tissue) your body turns
to burning muscles or organs (lean muscle tissue) and
dietary protein or fat to provide blood glucose to supply
energy needs. When this happens, your basal metabolic rate
drops because you have less lean muscle tissue burning
calories and your body thinks its starving and cuts back on
So you should continue to eat carbohydrates discriminately
selecting those which have the greatest health benefits.
The carbohydrates you consume should come from
carbohydrate-rich foods that are close to the form that
occurs in nature. The closer the carbohydrate food is as
Mother Nature intended, the greater the density of other
vital nutrients. If you are looking for health-enhancing
sources of carbohydrates you should choose from:
rich in fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium
and often vitamin E.
protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, often vitamin E,
potassium and a wider variety of minerals than fruit.
Whole grains and grain foods:
rich in fibre, protein, and some B vitamins and are very
rich in minerals.
excellent source of protein, fibre folate, potassium,
iron and several minerals. Dairy foods: protein, vitamin
D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and
You can also source carbohydrates from processed foods such
as soda pop or soft drinks, snacks such as cookies and
chips, and alcohol. These generally are considered to be a
poor food choice and should be consumed rarely. The
carbohydrate source (sugar and flour) in these food choices
has been highly refined processed. A diet rich in refined
carbohydrates and processed foods has been associated with
heart disease and onset of type 2 diabetes.
Why are these sources of carbohydrates to be avoided?
They are calorie dense and contribute a large number
of calories in a small amount of food. For example a 7oz
bag of potato chips or corn chips have approximately 1000
calories. Most women on a weight management program will be
aiming for 1200 daily calorific intake. So, this is what we
mean by calorie dense and nutritionally scarce.
They offer little appetite-holding power because they
have no fibre or protein. As a result you end up
searching for food again soon after your first serve.
They contribute nothing to your nutritional profile
except calories. This means you have fewer calories left
for foods that your body requires for good health.
Whenever possible, replace highly processed grains, cereals,
and sugars with minimally processed whole-grain products and
ensure you have at least five serves of fruit and vegetables
Rather than cut out carbs completely for a very short-term
gain (usually weight loss) there are greater long-term
health benefits in learning how to distinguish good carbs
over bad carbs and incorporating healthy carbohydrates into
your weight loss program.
Source: Herbalife Today Magazine