Good Vs Bad Carbs: Why Not All Sugars Are Bad For Your Health
So What’s The Truth? Are All Sugars Equally Bad?
The internet is full of health information that can be often confusing for a normal person. Some websites are making money based on fear mongering while some are selling products with alleged health benefits. The story is no different when it comes to carbs or sugars.
There is no such thing as 'good' or 'bad' carbs.
It depends largely on their sources. The ongoing good vs bad carbs seems to be most likely based on marketing tactics rather than scientific evidence. Undoubtedly, carbs or sugars are an essential part of a healthy diet. That said, too much of them can be harmful especially when you consume high amounts for prolonged periods. Unfortunately, a typical Western diet is full of sugars and other potentially not-so-beneficial ingredients like saturated fats.
Good vs Bad Carbs: Then, What Is This Debate All About?
As a matter of fact, there is no classification system that categorizes carbs as good and bad. One way to categorize carbs is into “simple” and “complex”.
People often say simple carbs are bad and complex carbs are good. But the problem with this belief is that the sugars found in whole foods are beneficial while the same sugars present in processed foods have little nutritional value.
For example, starches in sweet potatoes, quinoa and legumes are healthy but those in refined flour can cause numerous health problems. It makes a perfect sense why eating an apple is better than drinking a sweetened apple juice.
For this reason, it is better to classify carbs based on their sources rather than the actual type of sugar present in foods.
Complex carbs: Obtained from whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Simple carbs: Refined sugars that contain little to no natural fiber and nutrients.
Why Complex Carbs are Healthy and Simple Carbs Can be Problematic
Complex carbs cause a controlled increase in blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy. Unlike simple carbs, complex carbs are slowly digested in the body and cause a constant release of energy. That’s why taking whole foods and fruits make you feel full and energetic for longer durations. Conversely, simple carbs cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels and then follows a period of “sugar crash” where you feel hungry within a short period after taking a processed food.
Complex carbs can lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. In addition to sugars, whole foods contain other ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other healthy plant substances. Thus, they can keep away chronic conditions if you consume them regularly. Moreover, a higher intake of dietary fiber from natural sources has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Simple carbs promote inflammation but complex carbs sources have anti-inflammatory properties. A diet high in simple carbs can promote inflammation by activating body’s innate immune function. But complex carbs sources such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are rich in fiber and plant substances that can help to lower inflammation.