Do you want to eat as much as you want? Not partake in restrictive carb diets? The key is understanding what are good carbs and which ones you need to avoid.
I do not know how many people have told me that carbs are bad, that they are on a low carb diet or how much they miss potatoes and bread. I believed this too for many years. At home in France we were accustomed to vegetables and lean meat being the healthy diet. I spent many years feeling guilty about eating pasta, bread and potatoes until quite recently. Not anymore!
Since I have become vegetarian, I have lost 6kg. I was never overweight, however the kgs flew off of me in 3 months despite me eating an increased amount of food. I would find myself eating at least two sittings worth of carbohydrates every day feeling stronger and healthier than ever. Have a look here on my fitness progress since then.
One of the biggest advocates for high carb diets is Dr. McDougall. He has written a book called the starch solution which many prominent high carb vegans recommend.
What are carbs?
Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, fibres found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Carbs are macro-nutrients and are the body’s main source of energy. There are two other macro-nutrients which are proteins and fats. All three macro-nutrients are essential for proper body function and need to be obtained through diet.
They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
What do carbs do?
Carbs provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. The carbs also prevent protein from being used as an energy source. They are vital for brain function, they influence mood and memory.
Carbs are classified into two categories : simple and complex. The difference is the chemical structure which dictates how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. Simple carbs are digested and absorbed more easily than complex carbs.
Simple carbs are in candy, soda and syrups. However, these foods are called empty calories because they are made with processed, refined sugars and do not have vitamins, minerals or fibers. Other foods containing simple carbs include milk, fruits and white bread.
Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars. They are often referred to as starchy foods and include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain breads and cereals. They are always whole foods, which are unprocessed and unrefined before being consumed.
Simple carbs cause bursts of energy as they are digested quicker than complex carbs, which in turn provide more sustained energy.
If the body has insufficient carbohydrate intake, the body will begin to consume protein for fuel. Protein is required for the building of muscles and using it for fuel also puts stress on the kidneys. This is the danger of the low carb diets I so often hear about.
Fiber is another vital element to digestion, to promote healthy bowel movement and decrease the risk of chronic diseases and diabetes. Will talk more about fiber on a different post.
Carbs usually considered good are complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. These are not only processed more slowly, but they also contain other nutrients.
Characteristics of good and bad carbohydrates
Good carbs are:
- Low or moderate in calories
- High in nutrients
- Devoid of refined sugars and refined grains
- High in naturally occurring fiber
- Low in sodium
- Low in saturated fat
- Very low in, or devoid of, cholesterol and trans fats
Bad carbs are:
- High in calories
- Full of refined sugars, like corn syrup, white sugar, honey and fruit juices
- High in refined grains like white flour
- Low in many nutrients
- Low in fiber
- High in sodium
- Sometimes high in saturated fat
- Sometimes high in cholesterol and trans fats
Many foods are now manufactured with high fructose corn syrup, which is extremely unhealthy and should be avoided. Here I have found a list of many products which include corn syrup. Remember, it is always a better choice to cook your own meals from unprocessed foods and drinking water in place of any other liquids.
What are good carbs?
Good carbs are complex carbs, they are sources of long lasting energy and fuel for your brain. From my experience, these good carbs make you feel full and you can eat as much as you want! Check out some of the healthy recipes I have created.
Examples of foods to eat and foods to avoid include :
From my research though, the whole grain foods should be a category to the left. But in comparison to fresh fruits and ground vegetables, they are definitely not as healthy. Whole foods for the win!