How can one version of a food be good and another bad? What is the difference between bad carbs and good carbs? When it comes to food, everything has some impact on us. “Good” or “Bad” is a how we measure the quality of that impact.
Ever since we acknowledged that not everything we eat is good for us, we have been focusing on every food group for one reason or another, but carbs are an ever-present target in every health debate.
How do we decide which carbs are good or bad and what about those who say no carb diets are best? Which side do we choose in the battle of bad carbs vs good carbs?
What are carbs?
When we hear about carbs, many of us will think mainly of sugars, which is not entirely correct. Carbs, or to be more precise we should say carbohydrates, are organic compounds made of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Carbs are essential for human energy metabolism and they are part of the macronutrient group also populated by proteins and fats.
The carbs we consume are sorted into 3 groups: simple, complex and fiber.
Simple ones are those that we usually relate to the sweet taste in food. These are found in food – fructose, glucose, sucrose, and galactose. A special place in this group belongs to the artificial or refined sugars, like table sugar and fructose. These are extracted and purified from otherwise sugar-rich plants.
Complex carbs are essentially made from simple sugars but they form large chains, and we often call them starches. The last important group of carbs is fibers, which do not provide us with energy the same way the other groups do.
Bad carbs vs good carbs and metabolism
The main measure for this is the glycemic index. This index shows how fast our blood sugar raises after the intake of food. The slower the carb raises blood sugar, the better.
After consuming a meal, different carbs are metabolized at different rates. Simple carbs are processed first and they arrive into the bloodstream quickly, which of course means our blood sugar levels are rising fast.
But besides the carb itself, we should consider the source of the simple carbs… because the source matters.
Natural sources of simple sugars are more often than not healthy foods. Every fruit comes with simple sugars, but it also comes with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Milk has lactose, but it also has proteins and minerals. Natural sources of simple carbs like raw fruits are excellent sources of healthy nutrients.
Artificial sugars and processed food, however, come packed with simple sugars which are there just to enhance the taste. They have no other nutritional value. This is why these simple sugars are often called empty calories. They just provide energy fast. Although this may sound good, people rarely need that amount of energy that fast.
When it comes to the sources of simple carbs, it is especially important to consider the use of processed food, fast food and sweet beverages.
Like we mentioned earlier, after the digestion of simple sugars, blood sugar levels skyrocket very quickly. This is often beyond the normal recommended levels. Too much sugar is bad for us, and our body knows that. So, what does the body do? It releases insulin.
Insulin is a regulatory hormone that sends excess sugar into cells to be used as energy or stored as fat. Our body doesn’t want to waste energy. Energy is good. We need energy. So, the way the body thinks about this is, “This is too much for now, but let’s keep this energy for when I might need it”, and it stores it as a fat because fats are our energy reserves.
Our body saves energy when there is a plenty of it, to use at times when our energy or food sources might be sparse. This mechanism helped our ancestors survive, and this mechanism is still very active. The remarkable difference between most of us compared to our ancestors is, lucky for us, our next energy boost is just around the corner.
But our bodies haven’t adapted to this dramatic shift in lifestyle and they continue to prepare for periods of food shortages.
So, when thinking about bad carbs vs. good carbs, we need to know that every bit of excess energy we consume, our body stores as fat.
But now we are getting to the other side of the story, and the reason why these simple and processed sugars are actually empty calories. These sugars raise blood sugar levels, then insulin takes that high amount of blood sugar, sends it into cells, and our blood sugar levels drop…low blood sugar level means we feel hungry, and we need to eat. Many of us consume simple sugars again and we are back in the fat storing – feeling hungry process. This is a real vicious circle and the most common reason for weight-gain.
Beyond fat storing…
Frequent and prolonged use of artificial sugars and sweetened food and beverages requires our bodies to produce high amounts of insulin on a daily basis. Simple sugars like sucrose (table sugar), and especially fructose, contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when our pancreas cells, which produces insulin, increase the production until they can produce no more and blood sugar remains above normal and healthy limits. This is a big issue because in these instances our cells do not take sugar from the blood. Insulin resistance leads to type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease.
The effects of the good carbs vs bad carbs issue is especially interesting fructose-wise. Fructose is used for sugar-sweetened beverages, and how it is metabolised is a bit different than table sugar. Because in the liver, it is turned into triglycerides, and it raises the level of triglycerides in the blood. And according to the www.mayoclinic.com high levels of triglycerides increase the risk of heart disease.
Obesity is yet another potential result of the bad carbs vs. good carbs battle… if the bad carbs win. And, according to results in the US, the bad carbs are winning.
There is evidence that 2/3 of the US adult population is overweight or obese. A huge volume of research ties obesity to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and obesity have been boosted by other modern lifestyle changes, such as our more sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity can do wonders for sugar and fat-related health issues, and even light physical activity like walking can be beneficial.
On the other hand…
But what do we get if the bad carbs vs. good carbs battle favors the good carbs?
As mentioned earlier not all carbs are bad. Actually, carbs are not bad at all, but their misuse leads to all the problems we mentioned above. When we process carbs, refine and bleach them, remove the good parts only to improve the taste and color, then we are creating additional problems.
Good carbs are the whole fruits, whole potatoes (baked or boiled), nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, cereals, and of course vegetables.
These carb sources are filled with fiber, minerals, vitamins, protein, healthy oils, etc. If we cut out all these foods, our health will begin to deteriorate.
Our body uses glucose for energy, and all sugars must be turned into this in order to be used. But complex carbs enter the bloodstream at a much slower rate than simple ones.
Fiber is not used by our bodies for energy. Fiber is excellent for healthy metabolism. Some bacteria can feed on fiber and make it digestible, but the human stomach is not made for that. Besides helping in the digestion process, fiber can also increase the feeling of fullness, it helps combat constipation and keep cholesterol levels healthy.
Carbs and the immune system
Simple carbs have a negative effect on the human immune system by feeding bad bacteria and yeast. When these organisms thrive, they reduce the levels of the friendly bacteria living in our bodies. The friendly bacteria are an essential part of our immune systems. Research has shown that these bacteria love complex carbs and fibers, while the simple carbs are bad for them.
So, in order to have a healthy immune system, we need complex carbs. But we can do something more as well. BioPro-Plus is a natural supplement which stimulates productions of T-cells, and by doing so it improves our immune system’s ability to effectively seek out disease in order to kill it.
As we can see, when looking to settle the argument between bad carbs vs. good carbs, it is as important to recognize the good and bad sources of carbs, as well. Choose the right good carbs, packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and you will have the right ingredients for a healthy body.