All About Carbs: the Good, the Bad, and Low-Carb Diets

carbs
kayleigh harrington

There are many different options when it comes to improving your health by changing what you eat. One of the most popular ways to increase your health and lose weight at the same time is the low carb diet. Carbs have recently been labeled “the enemy,” and people everywhere are trying to figure out what to eat in place of their usual carb-filled diet. While it’s certainly important to reduce carbs that are extremely bad for your health, such as those found in chips, sodas, pizza, and cake, it’s also important to understand that not all carbs are created equal. 

Different Types of Carbs

Just like there are good and bad kinds of fat, there are also good and bad kinds of carbs. Carbs vary drastically between different types of food. They have different digestion rates, provide different energy levels, and have different effects on your blood sugar. The first step of a low-carb diet is figuring out which carbs you should and shouldn’t eat. The truth is, you shouldn’t remove them all. Your body needs some carbohydrates for energy, especially if you live an active lifestyle. Carbs fuel your brain and help boost your mental and physical clarity. Do your body a favor and don’t eliminate them entirely. 

The Good

If you want to do your body a favor and add a few good carbs to your diet that will produce energy and give you a boost of healthy nutrition, take a look at the list below.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Everyone knows that eating your fruits and veggies is a healthy decision. While you don’t want to overdo it when it comes to fruit because of the sugar content, you should certainly add a few to your diet. Fruits and veggies give your body much-needed vitamins, fiber, and potassium.  

  • Legumes: These include peas, lentils, beans, and soybeans. They not only introduce healthy carbs into your diet, but they also provide you with protein. Because they contain the “good carbs” they won’t cause an insane rise in your insulin levels, helping you lower your risk of developing diabetes if you eat them long term.
  • Whole Grains: Adding whole grains to your diet gives you a healthy dose of carbohydrates while also providing you with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. As an added bonus, they’re low in fat and cholesterol too.

The Bad

These are the carbs that you want to avoid. You should either cut them out of your diet completely or drastically reduce the amount you eat. They do your body nothing but harm and cause your blood sugar levels to spike. The sugar that they produce in your body isn’t used for energy. Instead, it’s stored as fat.

  • Sugary Drinks: Sodas are the number one problem here, and they should be completely eliminated. They’re horrible for you on a number of levels, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by drinking these unhealthy beverages. You should also avoid fruit juices. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re healthy. They contain way too much sugar. Stick with raw fruit instead.
  • Pastries: All pastries, cookies, and cake should be on your “don’t eat that” list. They are nothing more than sugar and refined wheat, both of which are very unhealthy.
  • Chocolate and candy: These are extremely hard to avoid around any holiday, but they certainly make the bad list. If you can’t stay away altogether, switch to quality dark chocolate instead. It’s not necessarily “healthy,” but it’s better than the alternative.
  • Bread: While not all bread is bad, any refined white bread should be avoided. They provide almost no quality nutrients and contain a large amount of “bad carbs.” Unfortunately, this includes most commercially available bread.
  • Fries and Potato Chips: Do not grab a bag of chips and dig in. Avoid going to the fast food drive-through for a quick french-fry snack. These foods are horribly high in “bad carbs,” and they contain quite a bit of fat too. They’re not filling and will leave you feeling sluggish and craving more food shortly after you eat them. These, like sodas, should be completely cut out of your diet.

Low-Carb Diet Suggestions

Low-carb diets aren’t bad. In fact, they have numerous health benefits and can help you drop those extra pounds. It’s just important to toss in a few good carbs every now and then. If you’re checking nutrition labels and wondering what in the world you can eat that doesn’t contain a bunch of carbs, here’s a list of foods that contain little to no carbs that you can base your diet around.

  • Fish and Seafood: If you’re not eating crusted fish, then you’re getting a carb-free food. Grilled or baked salmon is a great suggestion because not only is it void of carbs, but it also contains quite a bit of amount of protein. Don’t be afraid of the fat content. Salmon has a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acid, which is good fat that your body needs.
  • Natural Fats: Olive oil is a great example. Cooking with olive oil may up your fat content, but again, it’s good fat. It contains no carbs and is very heart healthy.
  • Cheese: In moderation, cheese makes a great snack and contains a very small amount of carbs. So, go ahead and sample the cheese plate. You won’t break your low-carb diet there.
  • Eggs: Eggs contain hardly any carbs. They’re about as low as you can get without being completely carb-free. If you want to avoid eating too much cholesterol, choose to eat egg whites instead of the yolks.
  • Meat: Meat is a carb free food. So, you can whip up delicious chicken entrees or go to a steakhouse without worrying about exceeding your carb limit. Plus, you’ll get lots of healthy protein.
  • Vegetables that grow above ground: Veggies that grow above ground, such as asparagus, bell peppers, lettuce, cauliflower, avocados, and broccoli are all low-carb veggies. They contain a few more carbs than the other items on this list, but not enough to make you slip up on your carb intake. So, enjoy your healthy greens or a nice salad with your meal guilt free. 
    Making better nutrition choices is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Keeping track of your calorie and carb intake can really open your eyes to the bad choices you’ve been making and help you create healthier habits.