Isn’t all the information about carbs confusing? Carbs are good because they create energy; carbs are bad because they create fat. The truth about carbohydrates is that there are good carbs and bad carbs; not all carbs are bad, and not all carbs are good. When properly incorporated into your diet, carbs can be used to help you achieve your weight loss goals, and they can be used to fuel your body to complete that marathon you’ve always wanted to take on.
The confusion can be minimized if you think of carbs in terms of ‘better carbs’ – ones that are higher in fibre, provide more nourishment and are therefore healthier – versus ‘worse carbs’ – ones that are lower in fibre, don’t offer as much nourishment and are therefore less healthy.
So, how can you figure out which carbs you need in your diet and how much of them you should consume? Ask yourself if you’re choosing a carb item that will taste good and add nutrients to your body, or if you’re selecting something that will taste good but not offer any nutrients. You need to focus on consuming carbohydrates that contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients (plant chemicals), as well as water (which is contained in most vegetables and fruits) and fibre.
Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs or How about Better Carbs
There are two types of Smart Carbs – High Fibre Carbs and Starchy Carbs. Then there are carbs that are lower in nutritional value, and ‘bad carbs’ that are full of refined sugars.
Type 1 – Smart Carb – High Fibre Class
High Fibre Carbs include most fruits and veggies, as well as legumes like beans and lentils. These carbs digest very slowly because of their high fibre content, which means they fill volume in your stomach to keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, and provide a slow and consistent release of energy (instead of a surge).
Type 2 – Smart Carb – Starchy Class
Starchy Carbs include fruits that are sweet and/or starchy, such as bananas, plantains, figs and dates as well as whole grain rice, oats, other whole grains like quinoa, amaranth and corn, and starchy ‘tubers’ – potatoes, sweet potatoes, yucca and taro. Whole grain flour products, such as pastas and whole grain breads are also included in this category. The key difference between starchy carbs and high fibre carbs is that the starchy carbs have a higher carbohydrate density, which means they have a higher calorie content than the high fibre carbs. It’s important to keep this in mind, because the extra calories can add up very quickly.
Type 3 – Low Value Carbs
Low-Value Carbs include non-whole grain, flour-based items such as breads, bagels, baked goods and pastas, as well as chips, crackers and other items that contain processed carbohydrates. These carbs don’t contain any of the key nutrients and elements of the high fibre or starchy carbs, and will create insulin spikes that will result in energy surges and crashes, as well as promote fat gain. These carbs have been stripped of the useful nutrients and don’t offer your body any benefits.
Type 4 – Low Value Carbs – Refined Sugar Carbs
Refined Sugar Carbs include all sugar-filled ‘goodies’ such as cakes, pastries, muffins, cookies, chocolate, candy bars, soda pop and some fruit juices, sports drinks, sweetened dried fruits and just about anything that is processed, frozen or comes in a box. These foods digest even more quickly than the low-value carbs, which means they result in even higher bursts of energy with bigger crashes, followed by fat-storing insulin spikes. The high-calorie intake of these items offers no nutritional benefit to your body, and will result in weight gain, as well as the possibility of guilt-induced rebound eating.
Here’s a Strategy to make Smart Carb Choices
Use a smart carb strategy to replace bad carbs with good ones. Replace heavily starched carbs with greens or beans. Instead of a bun with your chicken burger, have it over a bed of mixed greens, and maybe toss a handful of black beans on top for extra flavour. Replace rice with one or two fist-sized portions of your favourite beans. Take it slowly and replace one starchy carb at a time. If you have toast for breakfast, replace it with a bowl of fruit. Choose a day to avoid all refined sugar carbs and try replacing them with sweeter fruits, dark chocolate, protein pudding or sparkling water. Replace sugar in your coffee or tea with stevia.
How Much Should You be Eating?
Now that you know which carbs to eat and which carbs to avoid, you need to know how much of the good carbs you should be eating. Always consciously eat until you feel 80% full. When you prepare your meal, aim for a handful of legumes and beans, pile up the fruits and veggies, and only eat type three carbs occasionally. You can eat as much fibre-rich, non-starchy carbs (high fibre carbs) as you wish every day – make sure you get at least five servings!
If you need support to fit healthy carbs into your diet more often while reducing your intake of low-value and sugar-filled carbs, please reach out. I’m here to help.
If you have questions, then let’s connect. Book yourself a pressure-free, 20 minute Fitness Breakthrough session. I will help figure out what you need in order to become stronger and healthier version of yourself.
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