Myth #3: All Carbs are Bad!

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Myth #3: All Carbs are Bad!

Sure, they all end up as a simple sugar.  They all end up being stored as fat or burned for energy.  

Now for the rest of message: not all carbohydrates are the same.  There are two basic types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. This is a little oversimplified, but it does convey a message.  Not all sugars are equal.  

Types of sugars:  

  1. Simple carbohydrates are found in juices, candy bars, sodas, table sugar, and baked goods.
  2. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, potatoes, pasta, rice, and beans.
  3. A final group of sugars which have varying effects is the disaccharides which include maltose, lactose, and sucrose.  

This is not an exhaustive list.  Complex carbohydrates often provide fiber to aid gastrointestinal health, slow-release of carbs for sustained energy levels, and fuel for the brain. Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates result in a rapid rise in blood sugar (glucose) which results in a rise in insulin levels and reduced energy levels as you store them as fat.  

Pancakes on Plate

Carbs:  Tasty pancakes.

The effects of these sugars are not so simple.  Some have slower digestion and some folks cannot digest them fully for example lactose in lactose-intolerant people.  Others, such as dextrose, sucrose, and maltose, cause a rapid rise in blood sugar in most of those who eat them.  

Bad Carbs?  I guess you could call the simple sugars  and disaccharides bad sugars because they tend to raise blood sugar levels and decrease energy levels.

Good carbs?  These are better known as complex carbohydrates, including beans, bread, cereals, fruits, rice, oatmeal, pasta, potatoes, rice, and vegetables.  The keys to eating these are to choose forms that are higher in fiber such as whole grain products.  They should contain 4-6 grams of fiber per serving or more.  Complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index (GI) (slower rise of blood glucose equals lower glycemic index).  The GI has been tied to lower energy levels and high obesity rates[1][2].  

Truth: Simple sugars should be limited.  Complex carbohydrates should be encouraged as long as they are whole grain or high fiber.  I personally avoid white rice, white pasta, and white bread because of their limited nutritional value and ease of digestion.  If they do not have 4-6 grams of fiber per serving, avoid them.  I like to have the fiber to slow digestion and absorption.  These types of carbohydrates tend to stick with you and keep you feeling fuller longer.     

Footnotes
[1]Ludwig et al., “High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, and Obesity.”
[2]Breymeyer et al., “Subjective Mood and Energy Levels of Healthy Weight and Overweight/Obese Healthy Adults on High-and Low-Glycemic Load Experimental Diets.”
Breymeyer, KL, JW Lampe, BA McGregor, and ML Neuhouser. “Subjective Mood and Energy Levels of Healthy Weight and Overweight/Obese Healthy Adults on High-and Low-Glycemic Load Experimental Diets.” Appetite 107 (August 6, 2016): 253–59. [PubMed]
Ludwig, DS, JA Majzoub, A Al-Zahrani, GE Dallal, I Blanco, and SB Roberts. “High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, and Obesity.” Pediatrics 103, no. 3 (March 1, 1999): E26. [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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