Carbohydrates are one of the three major nutrients that provide energy to the body, through fiber, starch and sugar. Not all carbohydrates are the same and different types of carbs have different effects on health.
Understanding the difference between good carbs and bad carbs can help you make the right choices to maintain a healthy diet.
What Are Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are naturally occurring sugars, starches and fiber in food. They are composed of sugar molecules, which are combined to form starch and fiber.
After entering the body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (also known as blood sugar) in the digestive system, which provides energy as fuel and drives all human functions. Carbs can also be converted into fat (stored energy) for later use.
Dietary fiber is a kind of carbohydrate. It cannot be broken down during digestion. It passes through the stomach and intestines and then is excreted from the body.
Although fiber does not provide energy directly, it can promote the health of the digestive system, by maintaining intestinal peristalsis and maintaining a balance of intestinal flora.
Fiber can also slow down the speed of food digestion and also prolong the time of fullness. This helps prevent obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Scientists and nutritionists once divided carbohydrates into two types:
- Complex carbohydrates: including starch and fiber.
- Simple carbohydrates: including sugars naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk, as well as brown sugar, white sugar, honey and any sugar added to processed food.
What Are Good And Bad Carbs
In recent years, the scientific community has classified carbohydrates as “good carbohydrates” and “bad carbohydrates” based on their fiber content and composition.
1. Good Carbohydrates
Healthy carbohydrates are foods high in fiber. They also contain more vitamins and minerals. Such foods take longer to be broken down by the body to be used for energy consumption.
- whole wheat bread
- brown rice, wild rice
- legumes: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.
The common features of these foods are:
- Can be slowly digested, does not raise blood sugar rapidly.
- Unprocessed food and natural ingredients are not removed even during the production process.
- Help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, help prevent obesity and help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
2. Bad Carbohydrates
Harmful carbs are foods low in fiber. They are mainly processed and refined carbohydrates.
- white rice
- wheat flour
- sweetened drinks such as fruit juice, carbonated drinks, energy drinks
- ice cream
These foods are basically simple carbohydrates. Their characteristics are:
- They are quickly digested and absorbed by the body. They cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, which triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is a hormone that makes the body store more fat.
- Most of the nutrients, such as fiber and minerals are removed during processing.
- They are high in calories but low in nutrition.
- They may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. [*]
It should be noted that the sugars naturally present in fruits and vegetables are also simple carbohydrates. However, these foods are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other trace elements, which not only slow down the digestion rate but also provide a large amount of nutrition for the body.
Therefore, when determining whether the source of carbohydrates is good or bad, remember one thing:
- The higher the sugar content while being lower in fiber, vitamins and mineral content, can lead to a greater harm to health.
Do Carbs Make You Gain Weight
Generally speaking, restricting carbohydrates can reverse obesity. This is why low-carb diets such as ketogenic diets, primitive diets and the Mediterranean diet are so popular for weight loss.
However, not all carbohydrates will make you fat. In fact, eating too many calories from any type of food can lead to weight gain.
Foods with low fiber content usually contain a lot of calories without offering any nutrients. They are also quickly metabolized into glucose and enter the blood.
A sudden increase in blood sugar levels triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is a hormone that promotes fat storage. Therefore, eating too much of these foods can easily increase weight.
High-fiber foods are metabolized slowly and will not cause a rapid rise and fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels. The body can convert them to energy within a few hours.
In addition, foods with high fiber content are also rich in vitamins and minerals, so they are healthier foods.
Carbohydrates can provide energy for the body. However, there are good and bad types of carbs.
Healthy carbs to eat include whole foods with high fiber content, such as full bread, barley, quinoa, etc. These foods can slow down digestion time, increase satiety and prevent blood sugar spikes. These foods usually have high nutritional value.
Most bad carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates. Included in this group are refined foods such as rice, white noodles, candy, biscuits, cakes, etc. They are low in fiber, low in nutrition and high in calories. Eating too many bad carbs can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.