Many people are confused about “carbs”. So, what is the bottom line? Are carbs good for you … or bad? The problem is that “carbs” (short for “carbohydrates”) are not one thing. The terms, “high carb” or “low carb”, are essentially meaningless. What you really need to know is whether the carbs are refined or complex. Complex carbs (such as organic brown rice or beans) are very healthy and can help create stable blood sugar levels and healthy weight.
In contrast, refined or simple carbs (such as sugars and refined grains) have been stripped of their bran, fiber, and many nutrients. Refined carbs include white bread, white flour, white rice, pizza dough, pasta (made with refined flour), pretzels, pastries, sweet desserts, and many breakfast cereals. These refined carbs can play major havoc with your health. One of the worst culprits is refined white sugar. It is made from sugar cane or sugar beets that are processed to extract the sugar. Sugar is typically composed of sucrose, which is the combination of glucose and fructose.
A diet low in refined carbs can help you lose weight and control high blood sugar levels. On the flip side, many high-carb foods should be avoided. To keep blood sugar levels in check, here are some helpful tips.
Beverages Sweetened with Refined Sugar
Sugary drinks that are high in refined carbs are loaded with fructose. Fructose is strongly linked to insulin resistance and diabetes and can lead to metabolic changes that result in weight gain and potentially harmful levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
For a healthier option, swap sodas and juices for water, club soda, or unsweetened iced tea.
Industrial trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids to make them more stable at room temperature. These fats are found in foods like margarines, spreads, creamers, peanut butter, and frozen dinners. They’re also added to baked goods and crackers to extend their shelf life.
Trans fats don’t directly raise blood sugar levels, but studies have shown they are linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, and increased inflammation. They also lower the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the body and impair arterial function.
To avoid trans fats in products, stay away from any products that contain the words “partially hydrogenated” in its ingredient list.
Processed Foods with High Amounts of Refined Carbs
These foods contain little fiber, which helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream.
Trade in these foods for high-fiber, whole foods such as brown rice, quinoa, legumes and beans to help reduce the blood sugar response.
Flavored yogurts are loaded with refined carbs such as sugar. Rather than choosing these snacks that can spike your blood sugar and insulin, opt for plain, plant-based yogurt that contains no sugar and may offer additional health benefits. For a boost of natural sweetness, it top off with fresh berries.
Many cereals contain highly processed ingredients, are low in protein, and are loaded with refined sugar and refined carbs. To keep your blood sugar under control and to stay full for longer, choose a protein-filled breakfast that is low in refined carbs.