Not all carbs are bad carbs, nor are they all good carbs. That’s why going on a low carb diet requires you do more than just cut out all carbohydrates. Not only would that NOT make sense, it would be very unhealthy. With all the talk about low carb diets, let’s first identify exactly what a carb is and what a low carb diet entails. There are three macronutrient groups, protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates—carbs—include both highly processed and unprocessed ones in three categories, sugars, starches and fiber. Carbs are fuel for the body and can be broken down to energy.
Low carbohydrate diets, often called keto diets, limit the number of calories from carbohydrates.
Low carb diets can help you lose weight and even improve your HDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but long term studies show it could increase the risk for serious conditions like cancer, stroke and coronary heart disease. The positives and negatives of a low carb diet revolve around the type of carbs you eliminate from your diet.
Which carbs are good and which are bad?
Sugars and highly processed white flour products not only help pack on the pounds, they aren’t heart healthy. Carbohydrates that are fiber-rich, such as fruits and vegetables, are staples of a heart healthy diet. The more processing a carb undergoes, the more it slides to the unhealthy or bad carb side. Baked goods, candy, pizza, and junk food fall on the “do not eat” side of the carbohydrate spectrum, while carrots, celery, red peppers and other vegetables are on the healthy or good carb side. In between the two and closer to the healthier side than the middle, based on how they’re prepared are potatoes, peas, corn, and squash.
Good carbs have more to offer than just calories—energy.
You don’t have to have carbs in your diet, but for thousands of years man has consumed them. It’s simply easier to get energy from carbohydrates. Protein takes more processing, so you feel full longer, while fat slows the digestive process, so it also adds to that full feeling. Most carbs are quick energy, except for fiber-rich ones, such as vegetables and fruit. They also fill you up longer. Highly processed carbs, like sugar and white flour do not contain fiber and also do not contain other nutrients that are beneficial for your health. If you’re cutting down on carbs, cut down on junk food, white flour and sugar products. Pile your plate with green leafy vegetable, red fruits and vegetables, yellow and even purple ones.
- Some foods contain fiber, which doesn’t digest in the body. When you remove the fiber, you get net carbs, the number of carbs your body actually uses for energy.
- A one cup serving of green beans contain 8 grams of carbs with just 4 grams of net carbs. A cup of broccoli is 6 net carbs less the non-digestible fiber, 3.6 net carbs. One cup of sugar is 199.96 carbs and 199.96 net carbs since there is no fiber.
- Even high carb vegetables, such as potatoes, peas, corn, and squash can be important in your diet. Squash has a 16 net carbs, but also is high in vitamin C and beta-carotene that becomes vitamin A in the body, plus contains other nutrients, such as B6 and protein.
- Whole grains have benefits that processed white flour doesn’t contain. They are in the “good guy” encampment. Many bad carbs come in a liquid form, such as soft drinks, which are mostly sugar water.
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