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  • Writer's pictureThe Bettermeant Group

Good carbs and bad carbs: let's learn what they are

Updated: Aug 31

Carbohydrates — fiber, starches and sugars — are essential food nutrients that your body turns into glucose to give you the energy to function.

The good carbohydrate are the complex carbs found in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products are less likely to spike blood sugar than simple carbs (sugars). They are called complex, because it takes a lot longer for our bodies to break down the molecule chains that complex carbs are made up from.

The gut bacteria, which lives in our digestive tracts, absolutely thrives on digested particles of complex carbs and their job is to outnumber and eradicate the pathogenic (also known as bad bacteria, which adores sugary foods) gut bacteria.

In essence, there is a war zone in our gut. Daily, the good bacteria fight off the bad bacteria, which are responsible for causing many diseases in our bodies. Doctors, like to call these diseases as non-communicable, as it they take years to manifest as diseases. And its all attributes to poor diets which are heavy in sugars!

The bad carbohydrates are the simple carbs found in cakes, soft fizzy drinks, sweets, ice lollies and ice creams.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (also called carbs) are a type of macronutrient found in certain foods and drinks. Sugars, starches and fiber are carbohydrates. Other macronutrients include fat and protein. Your body needs complex macronutrients to stay healthy.

How does the body process carbohydrates?

Your digestive system breaks down carbs into glucose or blood sugar. Your bloodstream absorbs glucose and uses it as energy to fuel your body. The amount of carbs you consume affects blood sugar. Taking in a lot of carbs can raise blood sugar levels. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can put you at risk for diabetes. Some people who don’t consume enough carbs have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

What are total carbohydrates?

Foods and drinks can have three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and fiber. The words “total carbohydrates” on a food’s nutrient label refers to a combination of all three types. What’s the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates? A food’s chemical structure, and how quickly your body digests it, determine whether the food is a complex or simple carb. Complex carbs are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar. They also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber that your body needs. (You may be familiar with the term “good carbohydrates," but it may be best to think of them as healthy carbohydrates. ) Too many simple carbs can contribute to weight gain. They can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol.

What are starches?

Starches are complex carbohydrates. Many starches (but not all) fit this category. They provide vitamins and minerals. It takes your body longer to break down complex carbohydrates. As a result, blood sugar levels remain stable and fullness lasts longer. You can find starchy carbohydrates in:

  • Beans and legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.

  • Fruits, such as apples, berries and melons.

  • Whole-grain products, such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread and pasta.

  • Vegetables, such as corn, lima beans, peas and potatoes.

What is fiber?

Plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products, contain fiber. Animal products, including dairy products and meats, have no fiber. Fiber is a complex healthy carbohydrate. Your body can’t break down fiber. Most of it passes through the intestines, stimulating and aiding digestion. Fiber also regulates blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and keeps you feeling full longer. Experts recommend that adults consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day. Most of us get half that amount. High-fiber foods include:

  • Beans and legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils and pinto beans.

  • Fruits, especially those with edible skins (apples and peaches) or seeds (berries).

  • Nuts and seeds, including almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

  • Whole-grain products, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, cereal and whole-wheat bread and pasta.

  • Vegetables, such as corn, lima beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts and squash.

What are sugars?

Sugars are a type of simple carbohydrate. Your body breaks down simple carbohydrates quickly. As a result, blood sugar levels rise — and then drop — quickly. After consuming sugary foods, you may notice a burst of energy, followed by feeling tired. There are two types of sugars:

  • Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in milk and fresh fruits.

  • Added sugars, such as those found in sweets, canned fruit, juice and soda. Sweets include things like bakery, candy bars and ice cream. Choose fruit canned in juice over other varieties. Note that sugar-free soda is available.

Your body processes all sugars the same. It can’t tell the difference between natural and added sugars. But along with energy, foods with natural sugars provide vitamins, minerals and sometimes fiber.

Sugar goes by many names. On food labels, you may see sugar listed as:

  • Agave nectar.

  • Cane syrup or corn syrup.

  • Dextrose, fructose or sucrose.

  • Honey.

  • Molasses.

  • Sugar.

Limiting sugar is essential to keep blood sugar levels in the healthy range. Plus, sugary foods and drinks are often higher in calories that can contribute to weight gain. Limit refined foods and foods that contain added sugar, such as white flour, desserts, candy, juices, fruit drinks, soda pop and sweetened beverages. It is recommended to consume no more than:

  • 25g (6 teaspoons or 100 calories) per day of added sugar for most women (6 cubes of sugar as shown below)

  • 36g (9 teaspoons or 150 calories) per day of added sugar for most men.

Just so you know .... 1 sugar cube weighs 4 grams and contains 16 kcal.

Did you know that sugar is just addictive as heroine and cocaine drugs?

A review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has claimed that refined sugar has a similar effect on the brain as illegal drugs such as cocaine. Research on rats has found that sugar is more addictive than opioid drugs such as cocaine, and that there can be withdrawal symptoms such as depression and behavioural problems when people try cutting out sugar completely.

Did you ever think how much sugar do you consume?

In studies on rats (human brain receptors are very similar to rat's brain receptors), it has been found that there are significant similarities between eating sugar and drug-like effects such as bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, dependence and reward.

The research scientists claim that sugar alters mood and can induce reward and pleasure, in the same way drugs such as cocaine affect the brain. They cite studies in rats where sugar was preferred to cocaine, and studies in mice where the mice experienced sugar withdrawal symptoms.

In order for us to make an educated decision on where sugars come from in our diets, we need to understand that mostly they are sold in cakes, biscuits, ice creams and in soft drinks!

The problem with sugar consumption is that over time, starting from childhood, it will lead to all sorts of problems, such as:

  • Frequent bladder infections

  • Skin infections and wounds that don’t heal easily

  • Needing to urinate often

  • Weight loss despite more appetite

  • Excess thirst

  • Blurred vision

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Tiredness

  • Irritability and mood changes

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • High levels of glucose in the blood and urine when tested

  • Tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet

  • Vascular (to do with your blood vessels) disease

  • Kidney (major organ that filters urine and poisonous ammonia in the body) damage

  • Eye damage

  • Heart disease

  • Damage to the nervous system

So, what do you think now?

Did this make you think about your own sugar intake?

  • 0%Yes, yes, yes

  • 0%Kind of, but I'd like to know more

  • 0%I don't really care

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