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The Truth About Carbs

Carbohydrates are often excluded from any diet you go on, claiming that your health is adversely affected by carbohydrates. This statement is true, yes, but only half of the time. That is because there are both good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Knowing the difference between the two, and understanding why they matter to your body, is a key component of making the best decisions for your health.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a vital part of your body's overall health, serving as the most important energy source for your body. There are two main groups of carbohydrates—complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates are those made from more than three different types of sugars, and are said to be the good carbs. On the other hand, simple carbs are those that contain fructose, glucose, sucrose and dextrose, also referred to as the bad carbs.

In recent years, however, the debate over good carbs and bad carbs has led to an increased use of the glycemic index to determine what is really good or bad. The glycemic index takes into consideration how high the food increases your blood sugar, as well as how rapidly. Foods that have a lower glycemic index are digested slower, and change your blood sugar levels in a gentler way, whereas those that have a higher glycemic index create quick high spikes in blood sugar levels.

Foods that are high on the glycemic index, and are considered to contain bad carbs, include white bread, pastries, rice, crackers, white flour, and pasta. These are the foods you want to avoid, as bad carbohydrates can negatively impact your overall health. In fact, these types of foods have been linked to putting you at risk for developing diabetes, becoming obese, developing heart disease, and increasing your risk of being infertile or developing colorectal cancer.

Good carbohydrates, those considered healthier for you, are found in foods such as, whole oats, whole grains, and whole wheat. You will also find good carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables. Research has found that diets enriched with good carbohydrates help reduce the risk of diabetes and work to maintain healthy weight, reducing your risk for developing other health conditions.

Why Do Carbohydrates Matter?

Good carbohydrates, as you've heard, are the main source of energy for your body. In addition, with carbohydrates you will find fiber, which is an essential part of your overall health, reducing your risk of developing chronic health conditions. Plant-based foods are the best source of good carbohydrates, and fiber that your body needs, even though your body cannot actually digest the fiber. Fiber works to slow the absorption of nutrients and carbohydrates that you are consuming at the same time, and helps you feel fuller longer, which is great for weight management.

Overall, carbohydrates aren't bad, if you're selecting the right ones. Make sure you avoid 'white' as a general rule, meaning choose whole wheat, whole grain, and unrefined products. These will have more natural sugars and lots of fiber that are both beneficial for your health.