The trends toward low carbohydrate diets over the last few years have created a great deal of confusion about this macronutrient and how it should – or should not – be consumed. The trends have given carbs a very bad name. Many people are under the impression that the best way to lose weight is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible.
It’s true, there are some carbohydrates that aren’t great for you and that can be harmful to an effort to lose weight. At the same time, there are some carbs that are absolutely fantastic for our health and that support the type of weight loss your doctor would recommend. But how do you know the difference between the two?
This is where many people find that things get very confusing. Doctors often point to the glycemic index to help provide a guide. That said, many also point to specific types of ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or added sugars as a whole.
On the whole, there are some basic rules that can be successfully followed when it comes to trying to aim yourself toward good carbs while you avoid bad carbs. Incorporating high GI alternatives is the key. Overall, try to eat whole foods instead of processed ones. That will give you a significant advantage toward choosing the right carbs. As will choosing whole grains over white, processed ingredients.
Here’s how to recognize good carbs when you see them:
• Low to moderate calorie content, allowing you to satisfy your hunger without overloading on calories.
• High nutrient density, meaning that every calorie you eat also comes with the nutrition your body needs.
• Absent in refined grains and sugars. Avoid foods like white sugar, corn syrup, white flour and other highly refined and processed ingredients.
• High in fiber that occurs naturally within the food. There’s a difference between a naturally high fiber food and one that has had fiber supplemented into it. Try to avoid enriched foods, such as enriched bread, when you could choose a whole grain version instead.
• Low in both saturated fat and sodium, and either extremely low or completely void of cholesterol and containing no trans fats at all.
• Examples include whole grain cereals (and products made from them such as bread and pasta), fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, you can spot bad carbs because they have the following characteristics:
• High in calories.
• High in refined ingredients
• Low in nutrients
• Low in fiber
• Containing cholesterol, trans fats and possibly saturated fats, too.
• Examples include white bread, pasta made with white flour, cakes, muffins, cookies, French fries, and sweets such as candies.