Plant Based Diet
Plant Based Diet
By | July 14th, 2013 | Modified - September 17th, 2014

What Are Good Carbs? Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs

What Are Good Carbs?
What Are Good Carbs?

There is so much conflicting information going around about carbohydrates and people want to know what are good carbs, and are carbs bad for you? I want to scream that carbs are good for you and that carbohydrates support healthy living.

The real issue is that we need to avoid bad carbs, and good carbs are what we should eat. So what are good carbs, and what are bad carbs? Lets first understand what carbs are and their benefits before we get into good carbs vs bad carbs.

What Are Carbs?

Carbs are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are organic compounds made of saccharide. Think of a saccharide as a sugar. These saccharides are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The body uses carbohydrates for energy by breaking them down into glucose, the essential source of energy the cells of our bodies use.

There are two basic groups of carbohydrates, one with a lower molecular weight, and the other with a higher molecular weight. The group with the lower molecular weight is often called simple carbohydrates (simple carbs), and consist of monosaccharides and disaccharides. The group with the higher molecular weight is often called complex carbohydrates (complex carbs), and consist of oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

Simple carbs very often end in the suffix -ose. You will find fructose in fruits like apples, sucrose in cane sugar, and lactose in milk sugar. Complex carbs consist of starch and fiber. You will find starches in root vegetables, legumes, and grains, like yams, garbanzo beans, and wheat. Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate that is not digestible and it found in vegetables as well as fruit.

We have a definition of what carbs are but we still need to define what are good carbs and what are bad carbs? Lets first start with what are good carbs, simple carbs or complex carbs?

Simple Carbs

Simple carbohydrates, which are also called simple carbs or simple sugars, are burned quickly for energy and are less likely to be stored as glycogen or fat. At night the body will first convert unused carbohydrates into glycogen and store it in the muscles and liver.

The body can only store a small amount of glycogen, so the body converts the remaining carbohydrates into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells. Excessive storage of triglycerides can lead to obesity, and heart and health issues. I would view a simple carb as being a good carb, but it is not that easy.

This is where the story on simple carbs gets a bit tricky. We can’t lump simple carbs together, but many people do and that is why it is difficult to get a clear picture as to if simple carbs are good carbs or bad carbs.

Fructose

Let us start with fructose. You find this simple sugar in fruits and it is very good for you because it is quick burning and supplies the body with quick energy. It is a good carb. Fructose as part of a whole food plant-based diet is good for you. It exists in a synergy with the nutrients and fiber of the fruit. It is balanced and works well to keep the body in a state of homeostasis. Its structure is in tune with the body.

Examples of good carbohydrates are: apples, oranges, dates, mangos, papayas, berries, cherries, watermelon, peaches, and pears. Nuts and legumes also contain fructose.

Sucrose

A problem arises when fruit fructose is viewed the same way the simple sugar sucrose is viewed. Sucrose is usually processed from sugar cane or sugar beets and is concentrated in processed foods to make them taste sweeter. Sucrose is also used to make table sugar.

The processing of sucrose usually involves chemical treatment and bleaching. The processing strips the nutrients and fiber from the sugar and adds toxins which causes and anti-inflammatory reaction in the body. Sucrose is added at alarming rates to food and beverages.

The concentration of the processed sugar overwhelms the body’s digestive system and ends up spiking the blood sugar level abnormally and for longer periods of time the usual. This promotes weight gain because sugar is burned before fat it, and the large amount of sugar consumed doesn’t allow the body to burn the sugar and then move unto burning stored fat.

To combat the negative image or processed additive sugar, manufacturers are now making raw sugar which bypasses the chemical alteration to make the sugar less toxic. The issue stills remains that the unnatural concentration of sugar can easily throw the body out of homeostasis.

In general additive sugar is not a whole food and does not contain the natural balance of nutrients and fiber found in nature to regulate its digestion. If natural additive sugars are used, they should be used in moderation.

Natural additive sugars consist of: Agave, pure maple syrup, maple sugar, and date sugar. (Date sugar is a whole food in the sense that all of its nutrients remain intact. Only the water is removed.)
Bad Carbs: Many artificial and additive sweeteners are made from sucrose, and sucrose is also added at alarming rates to soda, candy, cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream, and energy drinks.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

The good carbohydrate fructose shouldn’t be confused with the bad carbohydrate sugar, “high fructose corn syrup.” Fructose in fruits is often confused with sucrose and high fructose corn syrup because they are sugar. They are lumped together as bad carbs but it is important to remember that fructose in fruits is a good carbohydrate.

I emphasize this because I know people who avoided eating fruits because they were under the impression that fruits were bad to eat because they contained sugar or simple carbs or simple sugars, and their sugar was bad because all sugar was bad.

High fructose corn syrup is a bad carbohydrate. It undergoes chemical processing; processing often introduces mercury into it. High fructose corn syrup is addictive, and its consumption can set the stage for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Bad Carbs: You will find high fructose corn syrup in most processed foods that use sweeteners, because high fructose corn syrup is cheaper the produce. It is in soda, candy, cookies, cakes, hotdogs, pastries, ice cream, yogurt, bread, salad dressings, canned fruit, cereal bars, cereal, boxed processed macaroni, energy drinks, and more. The list of processed foods with bad carbs is exhaustive. We need to stop eating processed foods and move back to healthy living by eating a whole food plant based diet that consists of a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Complex Carbs

Complex carbohydrates, also called complex carbs, are the carbohydrates many people are taught to prefer over simple carbohydrates or simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates are starches and fiber. Simple carbohydrates are given a bad name because of the use of sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, and unfortunately the simple carbohydrates of fruits are lumped together with those bad carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates are also looked upon as good carbs and many times preferred over simple carbohydrates because it takes the body longer to digest complex carbohydrates, so they stay in the body longer and cause you to be less hungry.

But, since complex carbohydrates stay in the body longer, there is a greater chance they won’t be completely used by the time you go to bed, at which point they are converted to glycogen and stored in muscles and the liver, and after there isn’t anymore room to store the glycogen the carbohydrates are converted to triglycerides and are stored in fat cells. This leads to cardiovascular problems and weight gain.

I do eat complex carbohydrates, mainly in the form of green leafy vegetables, quinoa, and garbanzo beans, with most of my calories coming from green leafy vegetables and simple carbohydrates in the form of fruits. On knock on eating the simple carbohydrates in fruits is they are burned quickly for energy, so there is more of a tendency to get hungry than if you ate complex carbohydrates like the starches of root vegetables.

I personally limit my starch consumption. Starches are not the best source of energy, and I much more prefer to eat simple carbohydrates from fruits to support my super high energy level and to maintain my weight-loss and health.

I personally don’t get hunger pains from eating a high fructose diet, and that is likely because I eat a lot of calories a day. The last time I checked I ate 2600 calories in a day. I like to eat and I eat a lot. I lost 25lbs eating this way and I have kept the weight off within a three year period. This is really only possible to do by eating a whole food plant-based diet. I eat a lot of fruits and I stay energized and slim!

Good Carbs: Garbanzo beans, quinoa, wild rice, amaranth, black rice, kamut, rye, spelt, and tef.
Bad Carbs: White bread, wheat bread, processed pasta, processed oatmeal, potatoes, baked potato, french fries, wheat, buns, muffins, crackers, breakfast cereals, and pretzels to name a few.

What Are Good Carbs?

Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs

Simple Carbs, fructose as part of fruits, are used quickly by the body. These simple carbs exist in a synergy with the fruit’s nutrients and fiber and work well with the body. Natural complex carbs are not bad but they just stay in the body longer and have more of a chance to be stored as fat in the body. Eat more simple carbs in the form of fruits and less natural complex carbs. These are both good carbs, but the simple carbs in fruits just interact better with the body.

I tested the idea that eating a lot of fruits would increase my energy and make me lose weight. I increased my fruit intake by three times and reduced my fat and complex carbohydrate consumption. I had already had lost a lot of weight adopting a plant based diet and my weight had stabilized. After switching to a high fruit carbohydrate diet I lost more weight, and I lost weight even though I increased my caloric intake.

Simple Carbs Vs Complex Carbs

Good Carbs: Eat more simple carbs from fruits and less complex carbs from legumes and root vegetables.

Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs

Good Carbs: Simple carbs and complex carbs found in natural foods.
Bad Carbs: Simple and complex carbs used in processed foods.

References:
Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Load

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About

I obtained a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University. I eat a plant based diet and I am an avid researcher of the benefits of a whole food, plant based alkaline diet. I obtained a BA in Organizational Behavior and Communications from NYU, worked as an elementary school teacher, and have studied social work. I am a web designer/developer and I enjoy boxing, kick boxing, cycling, power walking, and basically anything challenging. Eating a plant based diet and exercising is a great way to achieve healthy living. ~ Natural Life Energy

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