Whether you want to lose a lot or a little weight, one of the easiest ways to do it is to swap bad carbs for good carbs. You don’t have to eliminate carbs completely from your diet; just eating more good carbs will often get the job done. Simply eating more good carbs mean you’ll automatically lower your calorie and carb intake and that will turn your body into a fat burning machine!
Carbohydrates, like fats, are a controversial nutrition subject. Some people say they are bad while other people say they are essential. Needless to say, this can make things very confusing! The truth is, and probably why there is so much confusion, when it comes to weight loss, some carbs are better than others.
In this article, I am going to explain what makes a carb good or bad and how your choice of carbs can affect weight loss.
What are carbs?
Carbs are one of the three macro nutrient groups – macro meaning big and referring to the fact that they can often make up a large percentage of your food intake. Carbs are mostly plants and grains and contain four calories per gram.
Carbs are made up of chains of sugar molecules called polysaccharides – poly meaning many and saccharides being another name for sugar molecules. When you eat carbs, whether it’s bread, rice, or a banana, it is eventually broken down into glucose, a type of sugar, and then used by your body and brain for energy. Unused carbs are quickly and easily converted into fat.
The speed at which carbs are converted to glucose is part of what makes them good or bad. Some carbs are deemed to be fast and are turned into glucose very quickly. These are great if you need fast energy but terrible if you are not very active. Other carbs are deemed slow and are converted to glucose over several hours. These are good carbs but, even then, you don’t need to many of them and any excess will be converted to fat. Some carb foods contain more carbohydrate than others i.e. grains contain a lot and vegetables contain much less.
A couple of things make the difference between good carbs and bad carbs…
|“Good” carbs||“Bad” carbs|
|Low in calories||Often higher in calories|
|Contain a lot of carbohydrate per servings||Contain less carbohydrate per serving|
|High in vitamins and minerals||Low in vitamins and minerals|
|Largely unprocessed||Often processed|
|High in fiber||Lower in fiber|
|Not readily converted to body fat||Readily converted to body fat|
|Digested slowly||Often digested quickly|
As you can see, from a weight loss point-of-view, it really makes sense to eat fewer bad carbs and more good carbs so let’s take a look at these two classifications so you know what you should and shouldn’t be eating…
Bad carbs are, by and large, heavily refined and loaded with calories. The act of processing strips away most of the fiber plus many vitamins and minerals.
Fiber is VERY important for lots of reasons. Firstly, fiber is important for your digestive health – it keeps your bowels running smoothly. It’s also calorie-free and helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Low fiber foods digest quickly so you don’t feel so full for so long. Finally, high fiber foods help to stabilize your blood glucose levels which can help reduce cravings. All in all, fiber is your weight loss friend.
Foods like wholemeal bread, brown rice, whole grains, and brown pasta are still high in carbs and calories BUT are a little less processed and contain more fiber. Eating more unrefined carbs is a good idea but you should still eat less of these foods if you want to lose weight. They are, however, loads better than their white, refined, equivalent.
Examples of bad carbs include:
|White bread||Cakes||Processed fruit juice||Ice cream|
|White pasta||Soda||Potato chips||Pastries|
|Breakfast cereals||Candy and chocolate||French fries||Donuts|
Good carbs are largely unprocessed, contain much less carbohydrate and calories per portion, are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and contain a lot of filling, healthy fiber. Because they are bulky but not weighed down with lots of calories, you can eat a lot of them without gaining weight. They’re really filling which makes them a good choice when you want a satisfying meal that won’t make you gain fat.
All those vitamins and minerals also mean they provide your body with exactly what it needs to be healthy – vitamins and minerals are essential for every function in your body.
Examples of good carbs include:
Examples of bad carbs and better alternatives
They key to losing weight with carbs is to exchange bad carbs with good ones. Making good exchanges will save you a lot of calories without having to cut the volume of food you eat. In fact, you can often eat more of the good carbs than the bad so you end up feeling fuller for longer!
Here are some examples of bad carbs and their much better alternatives:
|Bad carb||Good alternative|
|Pasta||Thinly sliced zucchini|
|Potato chips||Sliced, baked, vegetable chips|
|Rice||Grated, lightly boiled cauliflower|
|Tortilla wraps||Lettuce leaf wraps|
|Cookies||A piece of fruit|
|Mashed potato||Mashed swede|
In every instance, just swapping from the bad carb to the good carb will save you lots of calories but you don’t actually have to eat a smaller portion! This is a great way to lose weight if you enjoy food and don’t want to have to eat a whole lot less.
Carbs and weight loss
Good carbs are not just lower in calories; they also produce less insulin which helps stabilize your blood glucose levels and prevents cravings. Many bad carbs are quickly digested, causing a rapid rise in blood glucose. This produces a lot of insulin which takes that glucose away. As your blood glucose levels fall, you end up feeling hungry again and craving more carbs.
Good carbs, however, tend to create a less dramatic insulin response so your blood glucose levels neither rise or fall too fast. The result? You don’t feel like you need to snack every couple of hours to keep your energy levels up. Also, lower insulin levels also mean better fat burning as insulin inhibits fat loss.
Eating fewer bad carbs and more good carbs means your body is in a much better state for burning fat. More filling, healthier, lower in calories, more stable blood glucose – what’s not to love about good carbs?!