Are carbs bad for you?
In recent years, carbs have been given a bad reputation due to fad diets that label them as the main contributor to weight gain. However, it’s not that simple. Lindsay Kirkland, RD explained what you need to know.
“Carbohydrates serve a number of important purposes within our body and play a big role in maintaining our health,” she said. “The more important factor to consider is the type of carbohydrates we are consuming.”
Simple vs. complex carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates we can get from the foods we eat: simple and complex. Although they are the same macronutrient, they are vastly different in terms of what they do inside our bodies.
Simple carbohydrates are sugars that are generally very low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Examples include candy, juice, doughnuts, soda, cookies, desserts and many cereals. In the body, these carbohydrates get digested very quickly and can cause high spikes in our blood sugars that often lead to an inevitable crash later in the day. They do not fill you up and tend to lead to more cravings for similar sweet foods.
“When we look at the impact of these foods on health long term, we see increased total calorie intake and weight gain. For this reason, these carbs are often labeled as the “bad carbs” or carbs we should try to avoid when possible,” Kirkland said.
Complex carbohydrates contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. This category includes whole fruits, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, beans, oats, whole wheat bread and rice. The fiber in these carbs slows down digestion, giving our body more time to absorb the vitamins and minerals while also having a more modest effect on blood sugars. With the slower digestion, people tend to feel full longer and eat less food over time. Given all these positive properties of complex carbohydrates, they are often labeled as “good carbs,” or the carbs people should try to get more of in their diet.
“There may be a time and place for both types of carbohydrates, however, it is generally a good idea to get most of our carbohydrates from complex carbohydrates that help stabilize blood sugars and offer our bodies more vitamins and minerals,” Kirkland said. “When these carbs are consumed in moderation, they can help our bodies function at their best and can promote overall health. Simple carbs should be limited and saved for special occasions to help reduce our risk of many chronic diseases.”
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