What Are Good Carbohydrates?

...and why you must know what good carbs are if you want to lose weight!

It is essential that you can identify what good carbohydrates are if you're serious about losing weight and getting in great shape. Good carbs have a number of characteristics that can not only help you lose weight but also dramatically improve your energy levels and overall health.

However, choosing the wrong carbohydrate sources can make you feel sluggish, can make you put on weight, can promote inflammation in the body and can also increase your risk of disease. What makes matters worse though, is that most of the nutritional information being fed to (pardon the pun!) an unaware public, who generally believe that the government is there to look after them, is basically wrong!

Good Carbohydrates

If you consider the generally accepted nutritional recommendations especially when in comes to carbohydrate consumption, you will notice that there is a rather large emphasis on highly refined, processed sources of grain-based complex carbs. Foods like, bread, pasta, rice and cereals. There are considered by mainstream nutritionists and dieticians to be the good carbohydrates! In fact, the highly publicised USDA Food Pyramid that was promoted around the world (including here in Australia) in the early to mid-nineties is a good example of how political lobbying by large food groups can influence government recommendations even though it may have serious long-term ramifications to the population's health.

In the late nineties here in Australia we had the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, which only changed the shape they used! Instead of it being a pyramid (even though it was really just a triangle), the Aussie government, in their ultimate wisdom, changed it to a circle! However, the proportions of the food groups remained unchanged! What a waste of tax payers dollars..again!

The bottom line is this, if you follow a diet that emphasises eating refined, highly-processed, grain-based complex carbs, above other food sources, in particular, nature's own fruits and vegetables, then you are going to have some problems! One of those problems is of course the massive obesity epidemic we are currently experiencing in most developed (and now many developing countries) around the world.

You see, these types of high-density complex carbs (bread, rice, pasta, cereals) are okay to have in small amounts but because they are so concentrated with carbs, often without fibre (unless it is added back after being refined), they cause a massive surge of glucose into the blood stream, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

This high blood sugar induces the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin into the blood stream in order to bring the blood sugar back down to a normal level again. Whilst this is okay if it occurs occasionally, if it happens on a regular basis it will make you put on weight. High insulin levels in the body tend to promote weight gain because insulin shuttles glucose (and other nutrients) into the muscle, liver and fat cells.

Plus, when you consider what flour (a wheat-based product) and water make when you mix them together (glue), you can understand why you might feel sluggish after consuming a heavy pasta dish or several pieces of pizza. Then, in someone who is highly gluten-intolerant, a massive inflammatory response will occur in the body as well.

As you can see, the high-density complex carbs that have been promoted by dieticians, nutritionists, health organisations and the government for years are definitely not the good carbohydrates!

So What Are The Good Carbohydrates Then?

I guess when it comes to carbs, you can classify them as being 'bad', 'good' and 'best' based on the impact they have on your health and weight-loss efforts. We've already covered the 'bad' carbs and of course, 'bad' certainly doesn't mean you can't have them at all, it simply means you should have a very low intake of them, around 1-2 serves a day. The good carbs, which also includes the best carbs, are the medium and low-density carbohydrates sources respectively.

The medium-density carbs include starchy vegetables like, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, peas, corn, etc. as well as most fruits and dairy products. Of course, dairy products do have some protein and fat in them as well but most of them tend to be higher in carbs compared to the other two macronutrients.

In order to assist your weight-loss efforts as well as promote optimum health, it is best to have 2-3 serves a day of these good carbohydrates.

The low-density carbs are the fibrous vegetables like, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, etc. They still contain a small amount of carbs but not very much. This means you can eat a lot of these foods without causing fluctuations in your blood sugar level. Both of these groups, the medium and low-density carbs are the good carbohydrates.

This group of good carbs are so beneficial from a health perspective that it is recommended to have 4-6 serves a day. However, if you want to consume more than this figure then that is generally okay too. These foods have relatively small amounts of carbohydrates in them that you really need to eat a lot of them in order to have an impact on your blood sugar levels.

The main benefits of consuming these sources of good carbohydrates are as follows:

  • They generally provide a slow, sustained release of glucose into the blood stream

  • They are full of phytonutrients

  • They have a good 'satiating effect'

  • They generally provide a slow, sustained release of glucose into the blood stream

    This means they generally induce less of an insulin response compared to the high-density carbs. This makes it easier for the body to access and utilise fat as a fuel source (insulin stops the body from mobilising and utilising fat as a fuel). It also means that your appetite stays under control because your blood sugar levels are stable. A slow release of glucose into the blood stream also means that your energy levels can remain stable as well.

    They are full of phytonutrients

    Phytonutrients are nutrients from plants that have beneficial effects in our body. For example, 'indols' from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and brussell sprouts) have been shown to protect the cardiovascular system. Also, the fiber, these foods contain can also help to lower cholesterol.

    They have a good 'satiating effect'

    Since these good carbohydrates are high in fiber they can help to fill your stomach making you feel more satisfied following a meal. Plus, the sustained release of glucose into the blood stream also helps to keep hunger pangs away.

    Overall, if you simply make an effort to have 1-2 serves a day of the high-density carbs, 2-3 serves a day of the medium-density carbs and 4-6 serves a day of the low-density carbs, you will be able to achieve your weight-loss goal quickly and easily, especially if you combine this principle with the other principles featured on this site.

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