CARBS – GOOD OR BAD?
Over the last few decades, and especially since the start of the 21st century, people have turned against carbs – labelling them as “bad” and even “evil”. But are carbs really evil?
Carbohydrates have had a pretty bad reputation for decades and there is so much confusion around whether we should be eating them or not – and whether they are “bad” for weight loss or good for weight loss.
A lot of people choose to cut carbs out of their diets while trying to lose weight – but is this really good?
The truth is that not all carbohydrates are bad for us!
Carbs are so important for good energy, stamina and concentration. Carbs are the primary fuel for the body!
Carbs are also our primary source of fibre – and fibre is essential for healthy digestion and weight loss.
Why are we afraid of carbs?
Well you see, carbs (which are essentially a kind of sugar – a healthy kind of sugar) have a big impact on insulin levels (a hormone in the body that affects the storage of carbohydrates – by delivering glucose to our cells).
When we eat carbs, our blood sugar levels rise (from the carbs that we eat), and this rise triggers a release of insulin (secreted from the pancreas). The insulin attempts to reduce blood sugar levels by storing the carbs and transporting them to different cells. It fills up certain storage areas in our bodies with these carbs.
Our bodies store carbs in our muscle cells (to give us energy) – but when these cells are full, the excess carbs will begin to be stored in other areas of the body and can covert to fat if they are not used up.
If we eat too many carbs, the pancreas is forced to go into “overdrive” – where it produces large amounts of insulin to compensate for all of the sugar in our bloodstreams. Having too many insulin spikes (if we regularly eat a lot of sugar) can cause the body to become insulin resistant – meaning that the cells become less responsive to insulin. Therefore, the cells now need even more insulin to absorb glucose. And so, the pancreas has to create even more insulin.
Insulin resistance can be very dangerous and has been linked to diseases like diabetes.
A basic recap
Eating too many carbs can cause a rise in blood sugar levels (they cause a sugar spike), which causes insulin levels to rise in the body. Muscle cells are then filled up with glycogen (to be used as energy) and the excess carbs can potentially be stored as body fat if not used up (burned through exercise or through daily activities).
Too many carbs (too much sugar), too often, can cause insulin resistance – which can lead to disease.
Carbohydrates are definitely needed by the body – but only in moderate amounts.
The best ways to reduce insulin spikes (sugar spikes) are to eat low GI and high fibre carbs. It’s also good to eat healthy fats and protein with carbohydrates – because fats and protein help the body to deal with rises in blood sugar levels.
THE BEST CARBS
What are the best carbs to eat?
While carbs are essential and are needed by the body, it’s important to remember that there are good carbs and bad carbs.
It’s best to stay away from carbs such as refined flours and refined grains such as white breads, pasta, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, etc (anything made with white refined flours) as well as refined sugars and high sugar foods (soda, sweets, candy, chocolate, fruit juice, etc.) – these are basically all just pure refined sugar. They are what we call “empty calories” because they give us calories without nutrients. These kinds of carbs also cause “sugar highs” and sugar crashes.
However, eating good whole carbs is so important! Healthy carbs include sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, bulgar, millet, whole rolled oats (not instant), steel cut oats, millet and any other grain in it’s whole form as well as all legumes, fruits and vegetables (people often forget that fruit and veggies are carbs too). These carbs give us healthy, sustained energy!
All of these carbs are healthy, so we should be eating them – every day!
You can also buy wholewheat pasta’s and breads if you like to eat them – it’s best to get ones that contain no white flour and only whole grains or whole grain flours.
These kinds of carbs will give you better energy, keep you fuller for longer and make you feel better in the long run!
Carbs are not evil, in fact they give life and energy to the body – they just need to be eaten in moderation.
Eat good, whole, healthy carbs and you will feel healthy with good, sustained, long lasting energy!
Liezl Jayne xo
Photos by Liezl Jayne for liezljayne.com