I bet you’ve been confused at some point whether or not to eat carbohydrates. Everywhere you look, it is no-carb this and low-carb that. There was a time not too long ago when it was hard to find someone who wasn’t on a low-carb diet. And yet, despite the passionate avoidance of carbohydrates by many, obesity is on the rise.
A few weeks ago I talked about how people easily got confused about which product had the most sugar. In a contest I ran, few people identified a healthy looking item as a high source of sugar. So today I want to address the hype and confusion about carbohydrates.
But First –
I first want to make a point. Yes, you can lose weight by cutting all carbohydrates out of your diet. I’m sure there are people who stay on low-carbohydrate diets for years. But the point these people are missing is that is that not all carbohydrates cause blood sugar to spike in such a way as to create weight gain. The carbohydrates that are responsible for blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance, type II diabetes and weight gain are high-glycemic carbohydrates.
High-glycemic carbohydrates turn very quickly into sugar in the body.
This sugar spike is followed by a large insulin response. Why is this problematic? Insulin’s main job is to store calories. When we are eating for balanced blood sugar, insulin is our friend. If we didn’t have insulin to store energy, we would never be able to take a break from eating because we would instantly enter a state of starvation.
Excess insulin, on the other hand, is a great way to build up your fat reserves.
Examples of high-glycemic carbohydrates are:
- puffed cereal
- rice cakes
- dried fruit
But, the good new is that…
Low-glycemic carbohydrates are fabulous for not only the waist line, but the brain, muscles, and kidneys, to name a few things. Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the body and they nourish every single cell of our body. Cut off all carbohydrates and you are depriving your brain of its number one source of energy. And the fiber found in healthy carbohydrates is needed for waste elimination. I mean, would you hang out in sewage all day by choice? Well, eliminate the good carbohydrates from the diet, and that is likely to be going on internally.
The best carbohydrates are the low-gylcemic ones, meaning they create a stable flow of energy as opposed to the quick blood sugar spike of the breads and pasta. They are not only essential for the proper function of the body. They provide the kind of slow release of energy that is fabulous for relieving cravings and dropping pounds.
Examples of low-glycemic carbohydrates are:
- brussel sprouts
- kelp noodles
Most fruits and vegetables have a low to medium gylcemic load. Some exceptions are root vegetables like potatoes and rutabaga as well as dried fruit.
So I say it is time to welcome carbohydrates back into your diet.
Weren’t you kind of missing them anyway? But make good choices because that can make the difference between diet success, and diet disaster.
Jacqueline Gum says
I’m glad to finally read about healthy carbohydrates! I couldn’t live without them! I actually have lived brussel sprouts since I was a child:) I think the no-carb fad is about over and I’m happy for it, personally. I’m a moderation person and I’ve been successful in maintaining a healthy weight for many years. But I have to admit that when I do indulge, it’s with some really good bread!
I hope you are right about the low-carb fad being over. It brought a good point to our attention in that certain carbohydrates aren’t good for us, but the good carbs shouldn’t be to blame.
And yes, when you do indulge, you should totally choose something completely awesome!
I like the low-glycemic list. It has all my favourites other then kelp noodles which I’ve never heard off but I’ll check into it now. I must admit that I love bread,especially right from the oven and slattered with peanut butter – yum. But since I only make bread once a week I guess that’s my treat of the week, the rest of the time I’m very good. BYW, I love your posts and get a lot of really useful information from them.
awww, thanks Lenie! Yes, and please try kelp noodles. I love kelp noodles with peanut sauce. Kind of decadent but made much healthier by adding the kelp noodles. If you like noodles, definitely worth a try.
Donna Janke says
Thanks for pointing out that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Brown rice, oatmeal and chickpeas are a few other good low GI carbs.
Thanks Donna! And I would say brown rice and oatmeal have more of a medium rating. They are good in moderation for people who have stable blood sugar. They can cause problems for those still trying to get their blood sugar under control. It all depends on your individual situation.
Marquita Herald says
I remember giving that low carb diet a try when I was in college and it definitely worked short-term, but did terrible things to my system, not to mention my breath! I love the fruits and vegetables you listed, but have never had quinoa because it is SO expensive for a tiny little box where I live and I’m not inclined to experiment with it and tend to stick with brown rice. I will give barley a try though. Thanks for the tips!
Yes, quinoa is on the more expensive side. It is definitely not mandatory to eat any single one of these choices. As a group, they are health supporting, but there is no need to worry if one doesn’t fit your budget. I have, at times, found good sales on quinoa, so that might be the right time to buy.
Ken Dowell says
You’re teasing us Erica. First we get an image of all these great looking breads. then you tell us why we shouldn’t be eating them. Seriously, though, thanks for the information.
Sorry about that Ken! I know. But hey, it got your attention!
Beth Niebuhr says
Diets seem to always go to extremes such as no carbohydates at all and then common sense takes over and people do some research and find out that the extreme isn’t necessary. Thanks for the list of good carbs!
I do wonder which diet fad they will come up with next. We’ve already tried eliminating fat and carbohydrates. Is the no protein diet next? Gosh, I hope not.
The high-glycemic carbohydrates are my weakness.
I should seriously gear towards the low-glycemic carbohydrates for health reasons.
Thanks for the information
I think you aren’t alone with your addition to high-glycemic carbs. I would probably eat them all day too if I could. Weaning yourself from bread and pasta is hard, but once your body has stabilized, it gets a lot easier to eat them more in moderation.
Pamela Chollet says
Why are carbs so good???? I love pasta, I love bread luckily I love vegetables or I’d just be rolling around instead of walking. Are all potatoes the same, I thought sweet potatoes were good for you? Another question, what about whey protein vs rice protein?
Pamela : )
You make sure a good point Pamela! Yes, sweet potatoes are much better for you and have a much smaller blood sugar response. If you are really craving a potato, a sweet potato is an amazing substitution. Thank you!
Susan Cooper says
I have been aware of the difference between good and bad carbs. Nevertheless, I love the reminder and the li list. There is a saying we often overlook or ignore; “moderation in all things” this certainly being one. 🙂
I know Susan. Moderation can be forgotten, especially when breads and other carbohydrates are so tempting!
The main way I’ve cut down on carbs is no longer serve potatoes with most dinners. There’s still the occasional meal I will put them with, but in general, I’ve just gone with doubling on veggies to replaced the carbs. It’s a good thing I like veggies 🙂
That is fabulous that you like other vegetables Jeri. And potatoes can certainly be eaten in moderation. I’m of the attitude that there aren’t good or bad foods. There are just foods that are more often or less often.
Great news Erica. I always feel a slight, very slight, twinge of guilt when digesting carbs but now I have a list and can concentrate my carb intake on those that are my friend.
Nooo! Don’t feel bad when eating carbs. How awful. I’m glad this list was helpful to you can make peace with carbohydrates again!
Meredith @ The Palette Muse says
I love carbs! Sadly, I mostly just love the ones on your first list. But I bet if I made a few switches over time I’d see some changes, without feeling too deprived. But a girl’s just gotta have a piece of chocolate cake sometimes!
Ok Meredeth. What about a cake made with almond flour as the flour and stevia as the sweetener with cocoa powder (or maybe even carob powder for extra credit). So it still isn’t exactly health food, but it is lower-carbohydrate and will create a smaller disruption of blood sugar. I find compromises work for me. And of course, sometimes the special occasion does call for a real piece of chocolate cake.
I’m back with another one of my questions, Erica. I eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast every single morning, and the cereal that I buy most often is spoon-sized shredded wheat. Where would you place shredded wheat on the high-glycemic-carbohydrates-to-low-glycemic-carbohydrates continuum?
I love your questions Andy! So, one of the things that shocked me the most when I started studying nutrition is that many of these healthy sounding, whole grain cereal options can really disrupt blood sugar. Unfortunately, shredded wheat falls into that category. It is certainly better than fruity pebbles or frosted flakes. But because the wheat has been processed to form these little squares, its nutrient profile has been altered. This means it is digested more quickly, turns to sugar more quickly and will be stored as fat more quickly.
Shredded wheat falls on the glycemic scale as medium-high. It falls lower than white bread or french fries, but not astronomically lower.
Great article, Erica!. I love to be educated on a level that goes deeper than the headlines and the latest fad.
Thank you Gina! I love it when people have the desire to learn and grow so I think that is awesome.
I never really thought of avoiding Carbs. Since rice is our staple food and I belong to a place where we take rice everyday, and sometimes twice a day I cannot really survive without rice. Apart from this potatoes, cereals, pasta are also regular members of my diet.
However I take a lot of vegetables and fruits along with an hour of exercise everyday which helps in maintaining the right balance.
Rose Mary Griffith says
Glad to find this post from last year, Erica. I was just commenting that I wished I understood carbs better.