Written by MindMate Staff
Carbohydrates are an essential part of any balanced diet. They are sugars that provide our body with its primary energy source. They also help with vital bodily functions like digestion.
Yet even though they’re so important, we often hear carbs described as ‘bad’ or unhealthy. Many diet plans even encourage us to stop eating them completely!
What’s important to understand is that the term ‘carbohydrates’ describes a broad and varied group of foods, some of which are healthy and some of which are best eaten in moderation. But which carbs are good and which bad, and how can we tell?
Natural vs Processed
Don’t worry, the answer is actually quite simple: Healthy ‘good’ carbs are naturally occurring, plant-based foods. These include vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. These carbs are considered ‘good’ because of the vitamins, minerals and energy they provide. Most importantly of all, good carbs are high in fiber, and this is the easiest way to tell a healthy carb from an unhealthy one.
Fiber is a part of plant-based foods that our bodies cannot digest. Instead of being digested, fiber works with the body to help it function more effectively, slowing down the absorption of key nutrients. This means that energy is released more slowly, and you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer when eating good carbs. In this way, fiber also helps prevent type 2 diabetes and can reduce cholesterol.
‘Bad carbs’, on the other hand, are mostly foods that are processed. They’re not naturally occurring. Instead of being full of healthy fiber and other nutrients, these carbs are packed with added sugar. This means that they provide you with energy very quickly, but it will wear-off very quickly. This temporary ‘sugar-rush’ effect is exactly what happens to your children or grandchildren when they eat too much candy! Processed carbs don’t provide lots of nutrients for your body to absorb either, as they are mainly made up of sugar and fats. Too many bad-carbs in your diet leads to weight gain and increased risk of a range of health problems.
The good news is, there are some super simple swaps you can make to replace bad carbs with good ones. Next time you’re shopping, look out for the wholegrain varieties of essential carbs you’d usually buy, such as pasta, bread, wraps, tortillas. This is a great way to decrease your bad carbs. The rest is obvious - avoid sugary snacks, high-fat foods and soda wherever possible!
How Much Should We Eat?
-Aim to get 45% to 65% of your calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% from protein.
-Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day!
-Include beans or bean-based products in your diet, it’s a great way to eat more fiber!