Carbs Are Not Bad For You!

Carbohydrates’ reputation has swung dramatically in the last five years. In fad diets, carbs have been portrayed as the dreaded food. In addition, certain carbohydrates have been advocated as a healthy food linked to a reduced risk of chronic illness.

Which is it, then? 

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 17 Dec 2021.

Carbs Are Not Bad For You!

What’s the difference between a white-bread sandwich and one made entirely of whole-grain bread?

Or, what’s the difference between French fries and a spinach, tomato, carrot, and kidney bean side salad?

Carbohydrates are found in all of the foods listed above. However, in both cases, the second choice contains high-carbohydrate meals (whole grains and vegetables).

Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?

Carbohydrates’ reputation has swung dramatically in the last five years. In fad diets, carbs have been portrayed as the dreaded food. In addition, certain carbohydrates have been advocated as a healthy food linked to a reduced risk of chronic illness.

Which is it, then? Is it true that carbohydrates are beneficial or harmful for you? The simple answer is yes, they are.

Fortunately, separating the good from the ugly is simple.

  • By selecting fibre-rich carbohydrates, we may enjoy the health advantages of healthy carbs. These carbohydrates are slowly taken into our bodies, preventing blood sugar spikes. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes are among the examples.
  • We may reduce the danger of harmful carbs harming our health by consuming less refined and processed carbohydrates, which remove essential fibre. White bread and white rice are two examples.

Why Carbohydrates Matter

The National Academies Institute of Medicine advised in September 2002 that individuals concentrate on eating more healthy carbohydrates with fibre. The following statements are based on the report’s information:

  • Adults should consume 45% to 65% of their calories from carbs, 20% to 35% from fat, 10% to 35% from protein to fulfil their daily nutritional requirements while reducing their risk of chronic disease.
  • The only method to acquire fibre is to consume plant-based meals. Plants, such as fruits and vegetables, are high in fibre and high in excellent carbs. Low-fibre diets have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in studies. According to some research, the fibre in the diet may also prevent colon cancer and aid weight loss.

The recommendations:

  • Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grammes of fibre a day.
  • Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grammes of fibre a day.
  • Because we need fewer calories and food as we get older, men over 50 should get 30 grammes of fibre a day.
  • Women over 50 should get 21 grammes of fibre a day.

What Are The Good Carbs?

The majority of us are familiar with the term “good carbohydrates," which refers to plant foods that include fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in addition to carbohydrate grammes, such as whole grains, beans, veggies, and fruits. Unless it’s a naturally low-fibre item like skim or low-fat milk, you can’t evaluate a carb’s “goodness" without considering its fibre level.

Why Fiber in Carbohydrates Counts

The portion of plant meals that humans can’t digest is called fibre. Even though fibre isn’t digested, it benefits our bodies in a variety of ways.

Fibre inhibits the absorption of other nutrients, especially carbs, consumed at the same time.

  • This slowing down may help avoid blood sugar peaks and troughs, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Oats, beans, and certain fruits include fibre that may help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
  • Fibre also contributes to satiety by making individuals feel full.

The issue is that the average American diet lacks fibre.

The American way of life is based on “white” grain: we eat a white flour muffin or bagel in the morning, a white bun for our hamburger, and white rice for dinner.

In general, the lower the fibre content in grain-based foods, the more refined or “whiter" they are.

It takes some effort to get fibre into nearly every meal. Here are three helpful hints:

  • Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Depending on your selections, five servings of fruits and vegetables each day will provide you with approximately ten or more grammes of fibre.
  • Beans and bean products should be a part of your diet. A half-cup of cooked beans can provide you with 4 to 8 grammes of fibre.
  • Switch to whole grains (buns, rolls, bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, etc.) in every manner imaginable.

What Are the Bad Carbs?

  • Sugars
  • “Added” sugars
  • “White” grains that have been refined

The reality cannot be sugar-coated: Americans are consuming more sugar than ever before. According to the USDA’s latest national food consumption study, the typical adult consumes approximately 20 teaspoons of added sugar each day. This equates to around 320 calories, which may rapidly add up. Many people are just unaware of how much sugar is present in their diets.

Sugars, refined grains, and starches provide the body with fast energy in the form of glucose. This is beneficial if your body needs immediate energy, such as running a race or participating in sports.

Unprocessed or slightly processed whole foods that include natural sugars, such as fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, are the healthier carbohydrates for most individuals.

Avoid Excess “Added Sugars”

According to Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, “added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners, are sugars and syrups that are added to foods at the table or during processing or preparation (such as high fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages and baked products).”

According to Gerbstadt, added sugars provide calories but little or no nutrients.

“We’ve been consuming more fat-free and low-fat items because Americans are increasingly conscious of low-fat diets,” says Shanthy Bowman, USDA food scientist and author of a newly released research on sugar in the American diet.

“But what many people don’t realise is that sugar is being replaced for fat in many of these goods, so we’ve been swapping fat for sugar,” Bowman adds.

According to the USDA, we should consume no more than 6% to 10% of our total calories from added sugar, which amounts to approximately nine teaspoons per day for most of us.

Use the Nutrition Label to Track Your Carbohydrates

The Nutrition Facts section on product labels may assist you in distinguishing between good and harmful carbohydrates. On the Nutrition Facts label, check for the following items.

Total Carbohydrate. Look for the line that reads “Total Carbs" to monitor the total carbohydrates in the meal per serving. The grammes of “fibre," “sugars," and “other carbohydrate" on the label will frequently add up to the grammes of “total carbohydrate" on the title.

Dietary Fiber. Dietary Fiber is a line that shows the overall quantity of fibre in the meal per serving. Dietary fibre is the number of indigestible carbohydrates that will likely pass through the intestines without being absorbed.

Sugars. Sugars refer to the total quantity of carbohydrates in a meal that comes from sugar, including natural sugars like lactose and fructose and added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. It’s critical to understand the difference between natural and added sugars. The typical 1 per cent low-fat milk label, for example, will show 15 grammes of “sugar" per cup. Lactose (milk sugars) accounts for those grammes, no additional sweeteners.

Check the list of ingredients on the label to see how many grammes of sugar on the label come from added sugars like high fructose corn syrup or white or brown sugar. Check the top three or four ingredients for any of those sweeteners. Because components are listed in order of amount, the first few ingredients make up the majority of most foods.

Other Carbohydrate. The digestible carbohydrate that isn’t regarded as a lump of sugar is classified as “other carbohydrate" (natural or otherwise).

Sugar Alcohols. Sugar alcohols are also included separately under “Total Carbohydrate" on specific product labels. Sugar alcohol carbs may induce digestive issues such as gas, cramps, and diarrhoea in particular individuals. Sugar alcohols are indicated on the ingredient label as lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and others. Many “sugar-free" or “low calorie" items include sugar alcohols even when another alternative sweetener like Splenda is used.


  2. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids (2002)(2005), The National Academies Press.
  3. Brand-Miller J.C., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, Vol. 76 (1) 5-56, “International Table of Glycemic Index and Glucose Load Values: 2002.”
  4. Diabetes Research Clinical Practice, Sept. 2006 Vol. 73 (3) pages 249-59.
  5. Riccardi G., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 2008 Vol. 87 (1) 269S-274S, “Role of glycemic index and glycemic load in the healthy state, in prediabetes, and in diabetes.”

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