Carbohydrates: Are They Good or Bad For You?

How many times have you been told that carbohydrates are the enemy? You’ve probably heard things like “to lose weight, just cut carbs”, or “avoid potatoes, bread, rice and pasta like the plague!” The amount of negative press about carbs is dizzying. But truthfully, they don’t have to be the enemy.

Over the past decade the reputation of carbohydrates has swung wildly. They have been deemed the feared food in fad diets. On the other end of the spectrum, some carbs have been promoted as a healthy nutrient associated with lowering the risk of chronic disease. So which is it? Are carbs good or bad? The short answer is that they are both.

Let’s start with the basics, what exactly is a carbohydrate? First, it’s a macronutrient which represents one of the three main classes of foods, the other two being protein and fat. They are a primary source of energy; mainly sugars and starches that the body breaks down into glucose (blood sugar) which the body uses to feed its cells.

So, what’s the difference between a sandwich made on white bread and one made with 100% whole grain, or sprouted bread? Or, the difference between potato chips and home cooked potatoes? While all the foods mentioned are carbohydrates, you can probably guess that the second option in both questions is a healthier choice, but why? Simply put, it’s the fiber content. Fiber is responsible for slowing the absorption of glucose, which helps the body avoid potentially dangerous spikes in blood sugar. This aids the regulation of insulin levels, avoids excess fat storage, and can help curb hunger and sugar cravings.

We CAN reap the health benefits of enjoying “good carbs” by choosing carbohydrates full of fiber. Whole foods, that are “grown, not made” such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Obversely, we can minimize the health risk of “bad carbs” by eating fewer refined and processed foods that strip away beneficial fiber, such as white bread, white rice, pasta, chips and especially sweets. None of which provide enough fiber or nutritional value to benefit to your health.