Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

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You’ve heard about ‘good carbs’ and ‘bad carbs’ and the effect each has on your body. But do you really know the difference between them? And what exactly do you know about their impact on your fitness and wellbeing?

Whether you live an active life or not, you NEED carbohydrates. Read on to find out why…

What is a carbohydrate?

Along with protein and fat, carbohydrate is one of the three macronutrients you should load up with on a daily basis. Nutritionally speaking, carbs come in these specific bundles:

  •         Starches: Long chains of glucose.
  •         Sugars: Short chains of glucose, fructose, galactose or sucrose.
  •         Fibre: Indigestible chains.

In short, for most living things, carbohydrate is a major source of energy…

But long-chain and short-chain carbs provide different types of energy.

Basically, the long-chain carbs release energy with a slower and more measured tempo than the short-chain variety.  So, after taking on board these ‘good carbs’ you’ll feel fuller for longer

Short-chain carbs or ‘bad carbs’ give you an immediate energy boost (we’ve all had a ‘sugar rush’) and if you mainly eat short-chain carbs you will soon feel hungry again.

Those on low-carb diets will be the first to tell you that you can actually get all your energy from fats and proteins. One gram of carbohydrate contains approximately 4 kilocalories (kcal), which is roughly the same per equivalent weight of protein, while one gram of fat contains around 9 kcal.

However, the Institute of Medicine advises that at least half of our calorie intake per day should come from worthy carbohydrate sources. That’s because good carbs have two other important and unique functions:

  •         The brain needs glucose to function
  •         The gut needs fibre to stay healthy

Good Carbs

Most of us will have some idea about what is meant by a ‘good carb’…

Good carbs are usually found in the sorts of food your mother told you to eat more of when you were a kid. Come to think of it, that’s probably the reason most good carbs get unfair bad press!

They are absorbed slowly into your blood stream, organs and muscles and in so doing they don’t tend to give you big spikes in blood sugar levels. Check out our Pro 2Go Oatbake for a deliciously light oat bar that’s low in sugar, light and chewy in taste and jam packed full of quality protein.

Good carbs can also help with weight control, keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol down and improve the health of your gut.

Here are just a few examples of foods which contain good carbs:

  •         Veggies
  •         Potatoes
  •         Quinoa, brown rice and wholegrain pasta
  •         Peas, lentils and beans
  •         Seeds, nuts and peanuts
  •         Fruits

Bad Carbs

‘Bad carbs’ include short-chain sugars and ‘refined’ foods. This type of carbohydrate tends to bring on big spikes in levels of blood sugar. And… as soon as the spike wears off you’ll feel hungry again and probably head for more of the same.

These cravings for bad carbs could eventually lead to weight gain and various systemic illnesses. There are lots of studies which conclude that excessive consumption of bad carbs leads to obesity and type-2 diabetes.

In the Developed World much of our food is refined. In other words, stuff which was once natural has been stripped of their wholegrain, vitamins and minerals. They end up nothing more than ‘empty calories’.

Here are just a few examples of foods which contain bad carbs:

  •         Sugary drinks
  •         Crisps and sweets
  •         Pastries, cookies and cakes
  •         White bread
  •         Fruit juices
  •         Ice cream

What should you be doing?

If you’ve been advised to lose weight to benefit your health, or if you suffer with weight-related illnesses such as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, you should look carefully at your carb intake.

For some people, actually reducing their intake of bad carbs and good carbs will improve their long-term health. If you’re into training, your food regimen should contain the lion’s share of good carbs to support your body’s functions.

Be careful:

If you are especially active the odd bad carb won’t matter too much. But an excessive intake will begin to affect your metabolic system. That, in turn, will leave you with little energy and fewer nutrients and you’ll fail to get the most out of your gym sessions.

Low-carb diets which include a greater percentage of protein and fat are a good means to lose weight. Those on such diets are far less at risk of heart disease and illnesses brought on by high cholesterol.

Summary

We have eaten carbs in one form or another for 200,000 years but it is only in the last 30 years or so that people in the Developed Word have fallen in love with bad carbs… and it’s this love affair that has caused us to become fatter and unhealthier.

In areas of the world where people still largely eat natural produce and good carbs, instances of heart disease and obesity are few and far between.

So…

If you’re active, keep the good carbs coming in but if you’re more sedentary in your way of life, try to reduce your intake as your requirements for the energy they provide is greatly diminished.

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