We live in a carb-o-phobic culture. We believe that carbs make us fat: They are the enemy. The truth is there are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. The problem is, the information we have been fed on carbs is convoluted and confusing at best. We are often told that complex carbs are better for us and simple carbs are not. But that's problematic as it throws some healthy foods like fruit, yogurt and kefir into the bad carb camp.
Let's keep it simple and start at the beginning. Carbohydrates primary function is to provide us energy. Insufficient carbs in the diet can lead to weakness, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and emotional issues. It's not hard to see why, the typical American diet is full of caffeinated soda, coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated tea, etc. We're not getting food energy from the right sources.
Carbs have a bad reputation and understandably so, the Standard American diet is made up largely of bad carbs. Let's take a look at what exactly bad carbs are:
Bad Carbs are carbohydrates that have been refined and processed, with the fiber or nutrients altered.
Negative Side Effects of Bad Carbs
Spikes and Dips in blood sugar
Not satisfying; cravings
Associated with obesity
Associated with type 2 diabetes
Linked to heart disease
Linked with inflammation
Feeds bad bacteria in gut, which directly affects our immune system
Lacking in nutrients
A low carb diet adversely affects metabolism in the long run
The Bad Carb List
White bread and bread products ie: bagels, rolls, pizza, pretzels, hamburger buns, pancakes, waffles, muffins etc.
Sugary Drinks, such as soda, juice, even smoothies can be problematic
Of course junk food, such as candy, cookies, cake, pastries, ice cream etc.
French Fries, potato chips
Did you notice that products made from refined grain flour make up the majority of the bad carb list? Is it any wonder grains have been unjustifiably maligned? All carbs have been given a bad rap, but it's unwise to conclude that all carbs, including whole grains are bad, based on crappy, processed food.
Whole food sources of carbohydrates, or good carbs, are nutrient dense and generally fiber rich, with the exception of raw milk which has properties that work in harmony with it's carbs. They're satisfying. Unlike refined carbs, whole food carbs take time to break down, so they provide your body with a sustained energy source throughout the day, instead of a quick pick-me-up and a dramatic drop.
Good Carbs are unprocessed, whole foods in their natural form.
The Good Carb List
Raw Dairy, from pastured animals
Whole Grain Berries, such as brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, sorghum, oat groats, einkorn etc.
Legumes: beans, lentils, peas
Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes
Benefits of Good Whole Food Carb Sources
Good Source of Energy
Help maintain a healthy weight
Bread products, especially when made from refined flour, are very calorie dense. Healthy whole grain berries are low in calorie density, but high in nutritional and fiber density. Foods low in calorie density, like veggies, fruits, legumes and whole grain berries tend to be higher in satiety. This means you will feel satisfied on less calories. If you're looking to maintain a healthy weight, this is the way to go! Eat real, nutrient dense food. No worrying about points, portions, labels, or carbs.
Aid good bacteria with soluble and insoluble fiber, which directly affects our immune system
Help control type 2 diabetes
Aid digestion and elimination
Help lower cholesterol
Help lower blood sugar
Help lower blood pressure
Help mental focus
Benefit emotional Health
Of course, right about now I have people give me examples of how a low-carb diet helped them lose weight when nothing else worked, or helped them control their blood sugar, blood pressure, or bad cholesterol levels. These are all serious problems that need to be addressed, but just because there's an improvement when a person stops eating bad, refined carbs, does not mean that leaving out carbs from whole, nutrient dense food sources is a good idea.
Bad carbs contribute to disease
Good carbs fight disease.
Bad carbs contribute to weight gain.
Good carbs help maintain a healthy weight.
Bad carbs contribute to heart disease.
Good carbs decrease risk of heart disease.
Bad carbs increase risk for type 2 diabetes.
Good carbs reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.
Bad carbs contribute to digestive disorders.
Good carbs prevent digestive problems.
Bad carbs negatively impact immune system.
Good carbs benefit immune system.