Week 6: Know Your Carbs

Q. Why are carbs bad?
A. Not all are. However, when processed foods make up the majority of your “carb” intake, (candy, white breads and pastas, crackers, cereals, etc), you will typically experience negative side effects, like inflammation, cravings, weight gain, diabetes. These types of foods are broken down quickly into sugar and cause unwanted spikes and drops in our blood glucose levels. The majority of Americans can meet their carbohydrate needs from veggies and fruits alone. Additional whole food carbs, like brown rice and sweet potatoes, can be added in as activity increases.

Q. What’s the difference between a simple and complex carb?
A. These involve different molecular structures, and a different breakdown process once is ingested. 

Simple carbohydrates consist of just one or two sugar molecules and are the quickest source of energy. Examples are honey, syrups, candy, soda, etc.

The sugars from complex carbs are made up of strung together sugar molecules, often contain fiber, and are gradually broken and released into our bloodstream. Examples are fruits, vegetables and true whole grains.

Q. Should I be following a low Glycemic Index (GI) diet?
A. In general, foods that are lower on the glycemic index are healthier, but not always. The key is to start with 6-7 handfuls of non-starchy veggies per day, and then add in 1-2 servings of berries. From there, you can add in fist-sized portions of whole food carbohydrates based on your activity level. The Glycemic Index can be used as a guide to pick out these higher carbohydrate foods, but make sure that your choices are “one-ingredient” foods. If you are getting most of your carbs from veggies, and limiting processed carbs to a couple of times per week, your diet will naturally be a Low GI diet.

Q. What are good carbs?
A. Good carbs are fruits and vegetables and true whole grains (oats, wild rice, quinoa).

Some snack ideas consisting of good carbs:

  • Apple and almond butter
  • Plain Greek yogurt and frozen berries
  • Oats, nuts and cinnamon
  • Cottage cheese and fresh fruit
  • Vegetables and hummus or guacamole