Carbs: The Good and the Bad

carbs cover

Hey Healthy Panthers!

True or False: All carbohydrates are bad to eat…False!

According to Doctor Oz:

  • Carbs are your body’s main source of energy, particularly in the brain
  • Foods containing sugars, starches, and fiber are all a part of the carbohydrate family
  • All carbs are metabolized into smaller molecules of glucose in order to power every cell in your body
  • Most carbohydrates are derived from plant-based foods including grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables
Composition of simple sugars

Composition of simple sugars

Carbohydrates can be broken down into two categories: Simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are single and double-chained sugars that usually end with the suffix “-ose”. They are commonly found in low-fat foods, to enhance flavor, and do not contain many micro nutrients, vitamins, or minerals. Complex carbs are chains of simple sugars that are joined together and exist in grains, breads, pastas, beans, potatoes, corn, and veggies.

By feeding your body simple carbs such as fructose and glucose, calories consumed are defined as “empty calories”. They may taste delicious, but they don’t provide nutritional value. With empty calories, your body doesn’t have to work to release the sugar from the carbs into the bloodstream. When this happens, you experience a blood sugar spike. With spikes, blood sugar coats red blood cells and causes the cells to become sticky, resulting in restricted blood flow and a building up of cholesterol.

Blood-sugar animation

Now you may be asking how sugars in fruit are any different from sugars in candy. Although they both contain sugars, fruit is a complex carbohydrate, meaning you consume worthy calories because it has the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to perform. Don’t shy away from an apple a day!

With all the information we know about carbs being composed of sugars, it is easy to believe that all carbs are bad. However, hope is on the way. There are carbohydrates that are not primarily made up of sugars.

Good Carbs
We can get healthy benefits from good carbohydrates by consuming carbs that contain fiber. With fiber, carbs get absorbed slowly into our systems, avoiding the spikes in blood sugar. Fiber and whole grains are digested slower than carbs from white flour and white rice. The white starches have fiber stripped out during processing and contain empty calories.

Some good carbs to eat are:

  • Whole grain breads, pastas, and crackers
  • Collard greens, spinach, and peas
  • Apples, bananas, berries, and oranges

Bad Carbs
We can minimize health risks from bad carbs by eating fewer refined and processed foods that do not have beneficial fiber.

Some bad carbs are:

  • Added sugars
  • Refined “white” grains
  • Processed foods
Good vs. Bad

Good vs. Bad

Being a college student, I know how easy it is to eat whatever is easiest to make. With a busy schedule, food choices are not a priority in our lives. Believe it or not, there are easy ways to substitute good carbs for bad carbs in your everyday diet!

1. Instead of using white bread for a sandwich in your dorm, throw your lunch meat on two slices of whole wheat bread. The fiber from the new bread will cause you to feel fuller for a longer time. Perfect for those four hour chemistry labs!

2. Look away from the morning donuts and fix yourself some instant oatmeal in your microwave! There are many different flavors to choose from (my favorite is maple and brown sugar). Oatmeal is a slow digesting carb that will provide long-lasting energy to start your day! On your next trip to Starbucks in The Orange Circle, pass on the cake pop and reach for a bowl of oatmeal.

3. Next time you eat at Chipotle or the Flame Broiler on Chapman Avenue, try out the brown rice in your steak burrito or chicken veggie bowl. Brown rice is packed with fiber, like wheat bread, and will sustain your hunger between meals, giving you less of an urge to begin snacking.

I hope this cleared up any carbohydrate confusion. Bottom line….some carbs are better than others and good carbs are easy to come by. Make the effort, take the time, and your body will reward you. Thanks for reading Panthers and stay healthy!

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8 responses to “Carbs: The Good and the Bad

  1. Taylor,
    Being the carb-lover that I am I really liked this post. I appreciate that you used bullets to break it down- it was much less daunting of a read that way. I liked that you that you gave realistic, simple ways to incorporate “good” carbs.
    Also, by including the panther references I automatically felt included, which I liked.

  2. I really found this post interesting and informative especially because I love carbs and it is good to know which ones are truly healthy for you. I also really liked how you included tips on what you can change to make your meals healthier. I am excited to read more in the future.

  3. This post is great! I felt really informed and now I’m going to be staying away from the carbs all over campus. I really liked reading your other posts and I think it might be cool if you wrote a post on vegetarian options at Chapman. Anyway you’re blog is awesome and you’ve done a great job!

  4. I really loved all the information you gave in this post! The added biology about carbs was excellent especially for those who don’t know much about nutrition. I liked how you provided advice so others can improve their eating habits. I can’t wait to see more!

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