Too many options!
Just type “weight loss” into google and watch as over billion different suggestions appear. Where do you start?
Consequently, many different ways of losing weight quickly and healthily have been thought up. Just think, there is Weightwatchers, Slimming World, The Atkins Diet, The Cambridge Diet, etc. Juicing, fasting, eating every 4 hours!!!
You name it, it has been thought of, and I imagine you may have even tried a lot of them yourselves. Interestingly, depending on which diet you may be on or have tried previously, the reputation of carbohydrates has been extremely varied. Some believe them to be the bane of their weight gain and some believe carbs to be a healthy element of our nutrition that can help lower the risk of chronic diseases. So what we all want to know is who is right?
The answer: BOTH
Before we discuss why, I feel it would good to get a grip on what carbohydrates actually are, what are good and bad carbs, why they may be bad for us, and what foods are considered carbohydrates.
What Are Carbs? What Do They Do?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (Protein, Fat & Carbohydrates) that make up the majority of our diet. The main role of carbohydrates is to provide our bodies with energy to perform actions and function properly. All of the carbohydrates we eat are formed from sugar molecules.
But, the way these sugar molecules are linked and what types of sugar molecules they are made up of can completely alter their taste, texture and effects they have on our bodies.
In particular there are two groups of carbohydrates:
SIMPLE Carbohydrates (sugars) i.e. fruits, jams, sweets
COMPLEX Carbohydrates (starches) i.e. quinoa, bread, pasta, rice
So Which Are The Bad Ones?
The biggest factor in how good/healthy a source of carbohydrate can be depends on how refined they are. By refined I mean how much of their original properties have been removed, and the amount of manufactured elements like colourings and preservatives have been added.
Unrefined carbohydrates have little alterations made to them, as they are natural products. This makes them a good energy source, as well as a good source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. This gives them a slower, more sustained insulin response and provides us with a large dose of nutrients per calorie making them a very healthy form of carbohydrates.
On the other hand, refined carbohydrates have lots alterations made to them through the removal of their original properties, and the addition of colourings and preservatives. Despite remaining a strong source of energy, the refining process causes them to be deficient in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, eating refined carbs results in a rapid surge in insulin levels, of which is potentially the most detrimental effect they may have in terms fat loss. This consequently makes them a poor option when choosing certain carbohydrates to eat.
Why Is A Fast Insulin Response So Bad?
Firstly, insulin is a hormone that is secreted from the pancreas after glucose is detected in the blood. The role of insulin is to tell the muscle and fat cells to absorb the nutrients, in particular glucose, into our blood stream.
Eating the wrong types (refined) types of carbohydrates will cause us to have very unstable blood sugar levels. One minute we will have very high blood sugar levels, the next we will have very low levels after insulin have completed its action. We then often continue to eat these types of carbohydrates, as the low blood sugar levels leave us feeling tired and hungry.
This causes us to eat refined carbs and be left in this vicious circle. Furthermore, during this cycle, only a very small amount of carbohydrate is actually used for energy. Meaning that a large percentage of the carbohydrates we eat are stored as body fat.
A further note is that continuing to eat in this fashion will also cause us to be at greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes. This is because that during these cycles more and more insulin is produced to deal with the high blood sugar levels resultant from eating refined carbohydrates.
As a result, the muscle and fat cells become more and more resistant to the insulin. After years in this state, the insulin producing cells of the pancreas can totally pack it in. Thus people develop Type 2 diabetes and then have to start injecting insulin.
So Which Sources Are The Good, And Which Are The Bad Carbohydrates?
Good sources of unrefined (GOOD) carbohydrates include:
- Wholemeal & Wholegrain Products
- Wholegrain Rice
- Fresh & Frozen Vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes
- Soy Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Black Eyed Peas
Sources of refined (BAD) carbohydrates include:
- White Bread
- Rice Cakes
- Maple Syrup
- Fruit Juice Concentrates
- All Types of Flour
- White Potato
- Dried Fruit
- Sweetened Yoghurts