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All you need to know about Good carbs & Bad carbs
Carbohydrates aka carbs are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. These are the macronutrients from which the body obtains energy or calories. Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.
Carbs are present in a wide range of both healthy and unhealthy foods. E.g. food items such as whole grains (oats, bajra, ragi, jowar, whole wheat), whole fruits with skin, lentils, and green vegetables are all sources of good carbs as these contain ample amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals, which help in regulating sugar levels and providing long term satiety along with good nutrition.
- Healthy carbs include unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans which promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
- Unhealthy carbs include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
These are the complex carbs which are processed more slowly but contain a bounty of other nutrients. The primary purpose of including carbohydrates in the diet is to provide energy.
- Low or moderate in calories
- High in nutrients
- Devoid of refined sugars and refined grains
- High in naturally occurring fiber
- Low in sodium
- Low in saturated fat
- Very low in, or devoid of, cholesterol and trans fats
E.g. Corn, bananas, oats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, curd and cheese.
These are the highly processed carbohydrates that raise the blood sugar levels too quickly. These refined carbohydrates are high in sugar and break down into glucose and enter the bloodstream faster than vegetables and other good carbohydrates, low in nutrients and fiber. Therefore, the consumption of foods rich in refined carbohydrates will increase the blood sugar level.
- High in calories for a small portion
- High in refined sugars – Researches show refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup make up more than 20% of the calories we eat each day. Refined sugars are linked to disease, obesity and Type II diabetes.
- Nutrient value – Zero to minimal
- Fiber – Zero to minimal
- Sodium – High
- Fats – High
- Cholesterol – High
- Trans fats – High
Some sources of bad carbohydrates are pastries, processed foods, white pasta, energy drinks, refined/white bread, ice-creams, candies, and aerated drinks.
We all need carbohydrates but that does not mean that we include sugary drinks and cookies in our diet. Carbohydrates are highly nutritious and a valuable source of energy.
It is, however, essential to know the difference between simple (bad) and complex (good) carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates should be limited as they do not satiate hunger very well and are typically present in foods with low nutritional content. Consumption of complex carbohydrates should be increased as these can make a person feel fuller for longer and are typically highly nutritious.