Carbohydrates – the villain, the hero of our bodies. They can provide so much energy that you can climb Everest. And they can also make you so fat that you become Everest.
There are mainly two types carbs: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates are types of sugars while complex carbohydrates comprise starch and dietary fiber.
Carbs are the main source of calories (kcals = kilocalories). This is the energy that is used to fuel brain and muscles. As you’d know, calories are the stuff we fight when we reduce weight… But not all kinds of calories are bad.
French fries and side salad… Completely opposite kinds of food, but both contain carbohydrates. The difference is that one contains good carbs and the second contains bad carbs. So, how to distinguish between the two?
Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates
Good carbs are the ones that take time to be absorbed into our system (our body). These carbs contain loads of fiber. This includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans.
Bad carbs are the ones that quickly get absorbed and cause blood sugar spikes. Bad carbs blanket almost all of the junk food.
In September 2002, National Academies Institute of Medicine recommended the nation that they should make lifestyle changes and bring good carbs into their diet avoiding the bad carbs.
Even after 14 years, this study still serves as the foundation of all diet plans. If you want to make your diet plans (or even follow one from a book), you should have the following information:
- A breakdown of calorie intake for adults:
- Get 45% to 65% of calories from carbohydrates
- Get 20% to 35% of calories from fat
- Get 10% to 35% of calories from protein.
- The ONLY way to get fiber is to eat plant foods, i.e. fruits and vegetables.
- Fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer and heart diseases.
- Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber a day.
- Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber a day.
- Men aged over 50 should get 30 grams of fiber a day. (Because we need fewer calories as we grow older.)
- Women aged over 50 should get 21 grams of fiber a day.
Basically, the decisive factor that makes a carb based product “good” is the amount of fiber it contains. Junk foods don’t contain much fiber.
What to Eat for Daily Carbohydrate Intake?
There are basically three kinds of carbs out there.
- Sugars: Glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
- Starches: A lot like sugars, but take more time to be broken down and get absorbed in our bodies.
- Fiber: We don’t digest fiber, but it helps keep our digestive system working properly.
So the idea is that we avoid sugar based diets and add high fiber diets into our system. Also, avoid all processed diet and prefer natural foods.
Natural Carbs: vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, potatoes and whole grains.
Processed Carbs: bottled/packed juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and other such foods.
Good Carb Foods
- All of the Vegetables: best is to eat several kinds of vegetables, especially green ones.
- Fresh Whole Fruits: apples, bananas, peach, apricot, etc.
- Legumes: lentils, beans, peas, etc.
- Nuts and Dry Fruits: almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc.
- Whole Seeds: chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
- Whole Grains: pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
- Tubers: potatoes, yams, cassava, etc.
Bad Carb Foods
- Sugar Heavy Beverages: Coke, Pepsi, Redbull, etc. etc. etc… they all usually contain lots of sugar.
- Fruit Juices: how come fruits are good and fruit juices are bad? Because processed juices contain lots of added sugar and chemicals.
- White Bread: this is another form of processed food. This is also a low-fiber food.
- Cookies and Cakes: usually, these foods are made from refined flour, not whole flour and they are high in sugar. If you make cookies with whole wheat and artificial sugar, then there’s nothing wrong with them.
- Ice Cream: We are so so sorry for this, but most of the ice cream brands put lots of sugar in their ice creams. So, try to avoid the ice creams with lots of sugar.
- Candies and Chocolate/Energy Bars: dark chocolate is okay, but dairy chocolate bars contain lots of sugar.
- Deep Fried Potato: chips, fries, etc. are not good. Whole potato can be okay deep fried stuff you need to avoid.
One thing we often do when we try to go on a diet is that we try to eliminate carbs from our diet… That’s a very bad idea. Carbs are good, only bad carbs are bad. We need to remember the difference and keep eating good carbs. They are essential for keeping a good health.
However, eating too many carbohydrates is not a good idea. Too much of anything is not good, whether its carbohydrates, money or power.
In the end, I leave you with this infographic about good vs bad carb