Carbs. Yes or No?
Low carb, high carb, no carb diet…what is the answer? Although there have been decades of research indicating benefits of low and no carb diets, we usually see clients completely confused and some times ill-informed about the basics of carbohydrate consumption. Nutrition can be very confusing when there are so many different fad diets out there. When it comes down to it, not all carbs are created equal. Carbs come in many different forms such as a loaf of bread, to an apple a day that keeps the doctor away. Carbs can be good for you. You just have to make sure you understand what carbs are helping you vs. hurting you. It is hard to get past this guilty feeling of eating bread, rice, and potatoes, but in reality, these foods can give you energy and assist you in your weight loss efforts.
Let’s first take a look at what a carbohydrate is. Carbohydrates are one of the three major macronutrients; carbs, proteins, and fats and are a key source of energy for our body (Kaplan, “Are All Carbs Created Equal”). Carbs are made up of two organic molecules that can be separated into two different structures; simple and complex (Andrews, “All About Carbohydrates”).
White bread, white rice, table sugar, and syrups are all examples of simple carbs. Simple carbs can be found in most processed foods. Both simple and complex carbs are digested into simple sugars before they can be absorbed by the body (Andrews, “All About Carbohydrates”). Too many simple carbs can lead into a spike in blood sugar, high cholesterol, weight gain, and even diabetes.
Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, legumes, and brown rice are examples of a complex carbs. These carbs include fiber and are absorbed slowly when digested (Kaplan, “Are All Carbs Created Equal”). By eating complex carbs ones body can maintain insulin levels, increase energy, provide vitamins, and even promote weight loss.
Now that you have a better understand of simple vs. complex carbs, it is important to have an idea about what the glycemic index of a carbohydrate is. Glycemic index (GI) measures how much a carbohydrate-containing food will raise your blood sugar (Kaplan, “Are All Carbs Created Equal”). For example, high glycemic index foods will raise your blood sugar higher than low glycemic index foods (Kaplan, “Are All Carbs Created Equal”).
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation through the years, but some carbs (when eaten correctly) can do some amazing things for the body! A cookie, and a ½ cup of brown rice can do two completely different things when absorbed in the body. It is up to you to be aware of what kinds of carbs you are consuming along with the portion in order to control the GI. Below is a simple guide on how to get started on adding carbs into your diet by swapping some of the simple carbs for complex carbs.
SWAP THESE HIGH GI FOR LOW GI
HI GI – LOW GI
Sugary Cereal – Steal Cut Oats
White Potato – Sweet Potato
White Rice – Brown Rice/ Quinoa
White Bread 100% – Whole Wheat/ Legumes
Corn – Dark Leafy Greens
Andrews, Ryan. “All About Carbohydrates: How Carbs Affect Your Health and Performance.” Precision Nutrition, 22 Jan. 2015, www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-carbohydrates
Kaplan, Benjamin. “Are All Carbs Created Equal?” Orlando Health – One of Central Florida’s Most Comprehensive Healthcare Networks, 6 Nov. 2017, www.orlandohealth.com/blog/are-all-carbs-created-equal