Choosing Good Carbohydrates Over Bad

Not all carbohydrates are bad for you — good carbs are essential to a healthy diet

Credit: Flickr / little blue hen

Highly processed carbohydrates spike your blood sugar and lead to food cravings

When trying to lose weight, many people cut out all carbohydrates. However, there are good carbs that the body needs for energy

Carbohydrates, the world’s single most significant source of food energy, have been given a bad rap.

However, is restricting carbohydrate-rich foods wise if weight management, blood sugar control and better nutrition are your goals? The answer depends on the quality of the carbohydrates you’re eating.

What are Carbohydrates and What Do They Do?

Carbohydrates are a category of macronutrients and provide the body with its main and preferred source of energy. When eaten, carbs break down primarily into glucose (sugar), which is absorbed into the blood to be used for energy, to fuel the brain or to be stored for later use.

Familiar carbohydrates include breads, cereals, crackers, pasta, rice, barley and other grains. Lesser known carbohydrates are all vegetables and fruits.

The quality of a carbohydrate is determined by how quickly it is digested and to what degree it influences blood sugar levels.

Low-Quality Carbs

Low-quality carbs are quickly broken down and absorbed into the blood and require little muscle power from the digestive tract. They can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and can lead to food cravings.

Low-quality carbs are typically highly processed, with fewer remaining nutrients (e.g., potato chips). Low-quality carbs include many breakfast cereals, white bread, white pasta, pop, cookies and candies.

High-Quality Carbs

High-quality carbs are more complex in structure and take longer to digest and absorb.

High-quality carbs naturally contain essential vitamins and minerals, help keep blood glucose levels under control and generally contain fibre. Fibre helps promote satiety and regularity – key factors in good health, and diabetes and weight management.

High-quality carbs include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Making the Carb Choice

When making healthy food choices, don’t eliminate all carbohydrates. Instead, think quality and choose the good ones.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.