“Good Carbs” vs “Bad Carbs”
Last updated: June 2023
I see this terminology all the time and to be honest, I hate it. I am a firm believer that all foods can be part of a healthy diet. So to see something labeled as “good” or “bad,” I get very frustrated. There is a reason so many foods are recognized as “good” or “bad” carbs. Let’s break it down.
When doctors, nurses, or even dietitians refer to a food as being a “good” carb, they are using a short term for a carbohydrate with many benefits. Most of these options would not only contain sugar and carbohydrate, but also fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even protein.
Fiber is beneficial as our body is unable to digest it, meaning that any foods eaten along with it will have a slower rate of entry into the bloodstream - including sugar. This is great for everyone! Diabetics especially benefit because they can likely avoid large highs and lows with blood sugar levels.
Vitamins and minerals are imperative to a healthy body. Our body needs a certain amount of each vitamin and mineral every single day to maintain a positive status and proper function.
Protein also slows the digestion of our food because it is a more complex food source, with more building blocks for the body to break down before we are able to use it as energy.
Great sources of “good” Carbohydrates
- Fruits: especially those that have an edible peel such as apples and pears. Be mindful of portion sizes as some fruits such as grapes are high in sugar and quickly digested leading to a sharper rise in blood sugar levels.
- Vegetables: all vegetables are great sources of fiber, and the more you can eat, the better the benefits you receive. The extra boost of fiber will also help you feel full for longer.
- Complex grains: Quinoa, farro, and brown rice are all great sources of fiber and even protein. Quinoa is the only grain that contains all the essential amino acids needed to be a complete protein source. Try to choose whole-grain pasta instead of white for more fiber, as well as avoid white rice.
If someone refers to a food as a “bad” carbohydrate, most likely it is missing one or all of the beneficial components above. White rice and white pasta noodles have been stripped of their fiber to give a more pleasing look and texture. But this only does our body a disservice. The more simple a food, the easier it is for the body to break down meaning that it is quickly sent right into our bloodstream. This may be cause for a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
Food sources that are considered “bad” carbohydrates
- baked goods such as donuts, cake, cookies, and sweet breads
- Fruit juices
- Regular pop, sweetened iced tea, flavored coffee drinks, etc.
It is best to avoid these foods as much as possible as they give that sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Remember, the goal for diabetes is to maintain well-controlled blood sugar levels and avoid sharp highs and lows whenever possible.
If you have any questions or concerns always remember to reach out to your physician.
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