Good and bad carbs: what is the difference between them
Good and bad carbs – what’s the difference between them? Any nutritionist will say this without hesitation. And people who “have eaten a dog” on various kinds of diets will voice the correct information without any problems, even if they wake them up late at night.
But what about those who have just started to dive into this topic? First of all, do not rush. The world is not divided into black and white, it has long been proven. Therefore, before starting any business, for example, going on a diet, carefully read our article.
Composition of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are molecules made of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon atoms. Carbohydrates are one of the three most important nutrients, the other two groups of trace elements are proteins and fats.
The main task of carbohydrates, that is, foods containing sugar and starch, is to give the body energy. Almost all carbohydrates, such as fruits, flour and pasta, are broken down into glucose and then burned in the cells of the body, releasing energy. When a person is not using energy, glucose is converted to fat. Thus, excessive consumption of carbohydrates threatens a person with extra pounds. There are four types of these substances in total. Let’s consider them in more detail below.
- SugarBasically, all sweet-tasting carbohydrates are sugars. There are two groups of sugars: simple and double. Glucose, fructose, mannose, and galactose are considered simple sugars. This group is also called monosaccharides. Disaccharides or double sugars are sucrose, maltose, and lactose, which are found in mammalian milk.
Disaccharides are formed during the digestion of starchy foods. With the help of gastric enzymes, starch is degraded to maltose molecules, and at the next stage it is reduced to glucose. Once glucose enters the bloodstream, the sugar level rises.
- StarchStarch is one of the main types of polysaccharides. It is found in potatoes, legumes, grain products, and nuts. In the composition of starch, there are several molecules connected to each other.
- Unlike disaccharides and monosaccharides, starch is not sweet in taste. Only if you chew a piece of bread or potatoes for a long time, then after a while you will feel a sweet aftertaste.
This suggests that the digestion of carbohydrates, if a person eats slowly and chews thoroughly, begins in the mouth. Saliva contains ptyalin, a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme that breaks down starch into shorter-chain carbohydrates. The sweetest foods have the shortest carbohydrate chain.
- CelluloseFiber fibers are also carbohydrates. A person, due to a lack of digestive enzymes, does not cope well with the digestion of fiber. There are bacterial strains in the colon that are capable of reducing fiber to short-chain fatty acids. The acids give the cells of the intestinal wall energy, due to which the intestinal mucosa regenerates. For this reason, fiber is essential for gut health.
- Sugar polyhydric alcoholsPolyhydric sugar alcohols are also considered carbohydrates. They taste like regular sugar, but cause much smaller insulin spikes. This group of carbohydrates includes sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol.
On average, carbohydrates contain approximately 4.1 kcal per gram. But sugar alcohols contain only 2.4 kcal per gram. This allows them to be used in dietary nutrition. Another benefit of sugar alcohols is that they are not a food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Therefore, xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are considered safe for dental health.
This group of carbohydrates can cause dyspepsia. Many people experience pain and bloating or diarrhea after eating sugar alcohols. But here everything is individual and depends on the dose.
Difference Between Good and Bad Carbohydrates
Dividing carbs into “good” and “bad” is a mistake. Distinguish between complex (slow) and simple (fast) carbohydrates.
- Their difference is in the rate of splitting. The body spends little time and energy on digesting fast carbohydrates such as candy, desserts, rolls and dairy products. Perhaps for this reason, almost all people adore sweet food. The body signals to us that these products are the most beneficial in terms of energy resources.
To process complex carbohydrates, the body has to work hard. Digestion of both fiber and starch will take a lot of energy. As a result, glucose enters the bloodstream more slowly, which allows for a long time not to feel hungry.
It was conceived by nature that the human body first of all needed complex carbohydrates and easily digested them. After all, fruits, vegetables and grains were always available to our ancestors, but fast carbohydrates had to be tried to get. So, in order to feast on honey, the ancient people had to fight with dangerous insects. The extracted delicacy became the reason for a big celebration.
- Are high carbohydrates good or bad? Stick to a simple rule – add more complex carbohydrates to your diet and cut down on simple ones. This will be better for your body. The only challenge you may face is distinguishing between bad and good carbs.
Sources of good and bad carbohydrates
Let’s list the carbohydrate-containing foods that are rich in important micronutrients and can energize you. You will not find harmful chemical additives in their composition:
- Unprocessed (flattened) oats.
- Whole, unprocessed grains such as wheat, millet, quinoa, spelled.
- Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, Turkish beans, and mung beans.
- Organic vegetables: carrots, red potatoes, beets, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.
- Natural fruits and berries such as tomatoes and all types of citrus fruits.
- Natural seeds and nuts.
- Unlike the previous list, “bad” carbohydrates have no nutritional value. They also lack fiber. For this reason, “fast” carbohydrates impair health and make you feel unwell. What are these products?
- Baking, i.e. bread, muffins, rolls, etc.
- Beverages that contain sweeteners: Milkshakes and fruit juice shakes, soda, energy drinks, alcohol, tea, coffee, or sugar smoothies.
- Packaged breakfasts and snacks: muesli, including in bars, cereals, marmalade.
- Heat-treated foods, i.e. chips, fries, frozen convenience foods, pizza dough.
- Confectionery, that is, sweets, chocolates, cakes, cookies.
- All kinds of white flour pasta and couscous.
7 foods that contain healthy carbohydrates
- Non-starchy vegetablesBroccoli, cauliflower, curly and white cabbage, zucchini, asparagus and spinach are vegetables that do not contain starch, but are rich in complex carbohydrates. It is these foods that give your body a feeling of fullness and many nutrients. To help them digest better, but remain useful, subject them to minimal heat treatment. For example, lightly sauté, double-cook, or make a stew.
- PumpkinPumpkin has much less starch and carbohydrates than potatoes and cereals. In addition, it is less high in calories. Supplement your diet with different varieties of pumpkin. Cooking with this product is easy. It is enough just to fry it with other vegetables or separately. Many will love pumpkin puree soup. It is also good for baking muffins and pies.
- BuckwheatBuckwheat is completely gluten-free, but it contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals. Unlike other grains, buckwheat is rich in fiber and protein.
- Include buckwheat in your diet and you can lower not only your cholesterol levels, but also your blood pressure. In addition, it is an excellent diabetes prevention. Buckwheat porridge is able to put in order digestion. It saturates perfectly, therefore it is recommended for those who decided to lose weight. It can replace the annoying oatmeal. We also recommend trying the soba buckwheat noodles so popular in Asia.
- BeetBeets contain betaine, a substance that prevents the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. But betaine not only effectively fights the accumulation of fat in the liver, it activates the secretion of bile and thereby speeds up digestion. Pectin contained in beets normalizes intestinal microflora. The vegetable can be eaten raw, or you can cook it. A delicious side dish is obtained by frying beets in olive oil with the addition of herbs and seasoning with herbs. Beets are also suitable for salads.
- Peas, beans, lentilsLegumes are full of fiber, folic acid, magnesium and B vitamins. Due to their high fiber and protein content, peas, beans and lentils satisfy hunger for a long time, help keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels normal. Add the beans to soup, salad, or vegetable stew, or serve as a side dish.
- QuinoaQuinoa is high in protein and fiber. This dish is great for filling and, when consumed regularly, helps stabilize blood sugar levels. This cereal contains many useful trace elements, vitamins and antioxidants: magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folic acid, quercetin. Before cooking, the cereals should be thoroughly washed with a sieve. This will remove the bitter shell (saponin) that gives the dish a soapy flavor.
- BananasBanana is the most nutritious, starchy and sweetest fruit. But at the same time, it is rich in potassium, which helps to normalize blood pressure and helps to remove excess fluid from the body. Unripe bananas contain a lot of pectin, starch and other fibers that restore the intestinal microflora.
As it ripens, the fibers turn into sugars. Therefore, it is recommended to consume bananas while they are slightly green. They are especially beneficial at this stage of ripeness, as fiber is not digested by the body, which helps to equalize blood sugar levels. It is best to eat bananas with healthy proteins and fats, such as peanut butter.
- Which food groups should be consumed and in what quantity depends on the age of a particular person, his lifestyle and whether he has certain diseases. The choice of the type of carbohydrates is also influenced by the hormonal balance in the body, the quality of the digestive system and even the physique.
Glycemic index and glycemic load
Avoiding fast carbs would be a mistake. And let’s see why. Good and bad carbohydrates have different effects on blood sugar levels. For example, complex potato starch and high GI glucose are processed quickly. Simple fructose, on the other hand, breaks down slowly. If a person consumes a lot of “bad” carbohydrates and at the same time does not exercise much, then he develops high insulin resistance. This is followed by an increase in body weight, hypertension appears, and the level of “good” cholesterol decreases.
This is how metabolic syndrome manifests itself, which causes many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and oncology.
The lower the glycemic index, the slower carbohydrates are digested. After eating foods with a low GI, there is no sudden jump in sugar. However, it would be a mistake to think of foods with a high GI as harmful and those with a low GI as healthy.
Evaluating the benefits of products should be based on a more complex indicator, which includes assessing the amount of nutrients taking into account concentration. For example, the GI of a watermelon is quite high, but if you remember that it contains 60% water, it turns out that the amount of carbohydrates per 100 grams of watermelon is not so great. This is the glycemic load, which is measured as the GI content per 1 bread unit.
2 basic rules for eating carbohydrates
First, eat only quality food. We are talking about carbohydrates that nature gave us. Replace corn flakes with whole corn kernels. Eat orange instead of orange juice. Prefer brown rice over white rice. In other words, cut out refined and processed carbs as much as possible.
Second, minimize artificial carbohydrates, that is, foods that have been over-processed. Typically, these foods are water-free and loaded with salt, sugar, and unhealthy calories. No good housewife would consider such products a complete meal.
Let’s summarize. It’s no secret that our health depends on the quality of our food. To feel great, you need to responsibly approach your diet. Give preference to foods that suit you and cut empty calories.