Are you confused about carbs? Some people say they are bad for you, while others say there are good carbs, and that cutting carbs is unnecessary, and even dangerous. As with many nutritional topics, there are two sides to every argument, and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
In Good carbs and bad carbs – what’s the difference? we reveal more truths about carbs, how eating less might help you lose weight, and what are the alternatives to a low carb diet.
If the subject of carbs has left you in the dark, this article will help clarify what is one of the most confusing topics in modern nutrition.
Most diets work in the same way – they reduce your calorie intake which forces your body to use fat for fuel. This is called creating a calorie deficit. Without this deficit, you won’t lose weight. Period.
One way to create this calorie deficit is to reduce your intake of carbs. In most instance, this means eating less bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes, and more vegetables. However, while this is definitely effective, it can also create some confusion and makes a lot of people wrongly assume that carbs are therefore unhealthy. That’s not exactly true.
In reality, there are good carbs, and there are bad carbs. Both contain similar amounts of energy, but good carbs tend to be very nutritious, and bad carbs are not. In fact, another name for bad carbs could be empty carbs or even empty calories.
In very simple terms, good carbs are mostly natural foods that either contain very few ingredients, can be found in nature, or have been through minimal processing. This means they are loaded with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
In contrast, most bad carbs are unnatural foods or are made from lots of different ingredients. They will also have been processed so they contain very few nutrients. Many also contain a lot of added or refined sugar.
Confusingly, sometimes foods seem like they should be in one group, but might actually be in the other. Potato chips, for example, can be made from as few as three ingredients (potatoes, oil, salt) but everyone knows that deep-frying potatoes makes them fattening and unhealthy.
However, a small baked potato could be considered a good carb because it’s very natural and nutritious. But, potatoes, in general, are quite high in calories and so a lot weight-conscious people tend to avoid them.
Another contradiction is manmade health foods like rice cakes, breakfast cereals, and low-carb breads. What about them? In most cases, they can be okay, but you need to look out for things like added sugar which can render even the best carb into an unhealthy mess. Breakfast cereal is the perfect example of this.
Wow – confused? You should be! After all, it’s not like it’s obvious which carbs are good for you and which ones are bad. And food labels make things no less confusing.
When I’m trying to choose good carbs, I always think about nature, and whether I could find my chosen food if I went out hunting for it in the wild. If I know I could find it or make it myself with very few ingredients, or minimal processing, I usually class it as a good carb.
But, if I’d have to invent a machine to make it, or couldn’t create it from ingredients readily available in nature, I’ll label it bad. This might not always be right, but it’s right enough for the purposes of health and weight loss.
In many cases, you don’t need to cut carbs to lose weight, you just need to eat good carbs, while cutting out the bad. This is often enough to produce weight loss. But, many of us are bad carb-junkies, and are addicted to things like cookies, white bread, crackers, donuts, and other bad carbs. If that’s the case, you may need more help to fix your diet.
One effective method for breaking a carb addiction is to do a one week low carb challenge. This is a good way to break old habits, like snacking on cookies, and replace it with better habits, like eating an apple instead. A week is long enough to start new habits, but not so long that starting feels like an insurmountable task. If you find it hard to go for long without carbs, I recommend giving this FREE eating plan a try.
Once you’ve completed the one week low carb challenge, and started to break your bad carb addiction, you can move on to replacing bad carbs with better ones. Here are some good examples of replacements for common high carb foods.
Remember, cutting carbs can help you lose weight, but only because it reduces your calorie intake. You can achieve similar results by eating less fat, eating smaller meals, eating fewer meals, or using meal replacement shakes for weight loss. So long as you create a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.