since then Atkins The low-carb, high-fat diet has spread on the American scene, and carbohydrates have been classified as harmful. Unfortunately, this is only half true and it has led to a lot of confusion among the public.
In fact, while some carbohydrates are harmful, others are good and should be the basis of a healthy diet. But how do you distinguish between good and bad carbohydrates?
Before making this distinction, it’s important to understand that all carbohydrates, good and bad, are made up of different types of sugar, and that can be confusing. The key is how the sugar is packaged and delivered to the body.
What is the difference between good and bad carbohydrates?
The first difference is that good carbohydrates contain natural sugars like those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. On the other hand, bad carbs are sugars that are “added” to processed foods and soft drinks, which are tossed into coffee or tea.
Smart watch to track calories:Here’s why your smartwatch isn’t great at predicting calories burned during exercise
The second distinction is that good carbohydrates are “complex,” meaning that the sugars are part of a more complex composition that includes fiber that cannot be broken down in the human digestive system. This slows down the process and that’s a good thing because the sugars in the good carbohydrates enter the bloodstream slowly, in a “time-release” fashion. This is important because the slow release of sugar suppresses the insulin response. (When blood sugar gets into cells and levels in the bloodstream drop, insulin goes down, too.)
In contrast, bad carbohydrates are “simple” sugars that quickly enter the bloodstream. When this happens, the body misinterprets what is happening, thinking that too much sugar is coming. In contrast, a large insulin response occurs to handle sugar and accompany it to the cells. An elevated insulin response indicates that the body is storing body fat, especially in the abdominal area as visceral (deep) fat in the body around the liver and other organs. Excess visceral fat contributes to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and eventually the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The third distinction is that good carbohydrates provide a lot of beneficial nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins), and because they saturate the body you eat less. Bad carbohydrates are sugars that are “empty” calories, meaning that they provide energy but contain no nutrients, and the excess energy is stored as body fat. Plus, bad carbs don’t satisfy your hunger, but instead inspire you to eat more, consume more calories and add more body fat.
Although excess body fat is the primary root cause of the destruction of health, it is important to note that sugar, in and of itself, is a problem. Recent research suggests that people of normal weight who consume a lot of “added” sugar may double their risk of dying from heart disease.
How can I read food labels to choose good carbohydrates?
In the past, food labels weren’t always helpful when trying to make good dietary decisions. Is this because food producers wanted to keep consumers in the dark, especially those who specialize in health-destroying foods that are high in fat and sugar? It definitely looks that way.
Take the fact that in the past, labels didn’t reveal serving size. So, if the label tells you that a product has 100 calories (kcals) per serving, but doesn’t tell you how many servings are in the package, you might be surprised to learn that there are four servings in the package, for a total of 400 calories. This is especially misleading for highly concentrated foods. Which is high in calories in just a few bites.
Intermittent fasting vs. rigorous diets:What is the best diet to lose weight quickly?
Fortunately, after decades of effort from health advocates seeking to make beneficial changes, we now have food labels that make more sense. This was especially helpful for the carbohydrates on the labels. Now, the labels tell us how much sugar is “added” per serving in the product. This is important because you can use this valuable information to cut back on your bad carb intake.
However, be aware that “added” sugar is reported in grams, and you need to know what that means. Consider the number four. To explain this and put it into perspective, you need to know that there are 4 calories per gram of sugar, and 4 grams of sugar in one teaspoon.
What are the health guidelines for added sugar?
For women, the daily limit should be no more than 6 teaspoons (6 teaspoons x 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon x 4 calories per gram of sugar = 96 calories). For men, the daily limit should be no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar (144 calories).
So how are we? The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day (352 calories), and the majority of that comes from soft drinks. For example, a 12-ounce can of Coke contains 9.75 teaspoons of “added” sugar (39 grams). Can you imagine the astonishingly high amount of sugar for people walking around carrying quart-sized sodas, sipping on them all day long?
Unfortunately, soft drinks aren’t the only culprit. “Added” sugar is everywhere, including candy, pastries, ice cream, fruit juices, canned fruits, fast foods, cereals, and cereal bars. “Added” sugar is also found in many reassuring places, such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, sports drinks, granola, flavored coffee, high-protein bars, prepared soups, canned beans, ready-made juices, etc.
Not all carbohydrates deserve the notoriety that has been unjustly imposed on them in recent years. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good, complex carbs that are loaded with fiber and healthy nutrients. Conversely, some carbs definitely deserve a bad reputation, with simple carbs topping the list, foods high in “added” sugar that only provide calories.
You can reach Bryant Stamford, Professor of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Hanover College, at firstname.lastname@example.org.