Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Why Carbohydrates Matter to You
The right type of carbohydrates can boost your health!
What’s the difference between a sandwich made on white bread and one made
with 100% whole grain bread?
Or, the difference between French fries and side salad made with spinach,
tomatoes, carrots, and kidney beans?
All the foods above are carbohydrates. But the second option in both
questions includes good carbohydrate foods (whole grains and vegetables).
Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?
In the past five years the reputation of carbohydrates has swung wildly.
Carbs have been touted as the feared food in fad diets. And some carbs have
also been promoted as a healthful nutrient associated with lower risk of
So which is it? Are carbs good or bad? The short answer is that they are
Fortunately, it’s easy separate the good from the bad.
- We can reap the health benefits of good carbs by choosing carbohydrates
full of fiber. These carbs that get absorbed slowly into our systems, avoiding
spikes in blood sugar levels. Examples: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and
- We can minimize the health risk of bad carbs by eating fewer refined and
processed carbohydrates that strip away beneficial fiber. Examples: white bread
and white rice.
Why Carbohydrates Matter
In September 2002, the National Academies Institute of Medicine recommended
that people focus on getting more good carbs with fiber into their diet. The
following statements are based on information given in the report:
- To meet the body's daily nutritional needs while minimizing risk for
chronic disease, adults should get 45% to 65% of their calories from
carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% from protein.
- There is only one way to get fiber -- eat plant foods. Plants such as
fruits and vegetables are quality carbohydrates that are loaded with fiber.
Studies show an increased risk for heart disease with low-fiber diets. There is
also some evidence to suggest that fiber in the diet may also help to prevent
colon cancer and promote weight control.
- Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber a day.
- Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber a day.
- Because we need fewer calories and food as we get older, men over aged 50
should get 30 grams of fiber a day.
- Women over aged 50 should get 21 grams of fiber a day.
What Are The Good Carbs?
Most of us know what the good carbs are: plant foods that deliver fiber,
vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals along with grams of carbohydrate, such
as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. You can’t judge a carb as
“good” without considering its fiber content (unless it’s a naturally low-fiber
food like skim or low-fat milk).
Why Fiber in Carbohydrates Counts
Fiber is the part in plant foods that humans can’t digest. Even though fiber
isn’t absorbed, it does all sorts of great stuff for our bodies.