Good carbs vs bad carbs; What you need to know

Good carbs vs bad carbs; What you need to know
  • PublishedMay 9, 2020

When you talk about carbs, many people’s minds will shoot to weight gain and obesity. Let me correct you, not all carbs will make you fat.

Carbs are in two categories; good carbs and bad carbs which are whole carbs and refined carbs in other words.  Bad carbs might cause weight gain and obesity while good carbs are healthy and will provide essential nutrients to the body.

So how do you choose the carbs and how do you know or identify bad carbs over good carbs for weight loss.

Good carbs vs bad carbs: Good carbs include whole foods that are healthy to eat while bad carbs are the ones you should avoid as they are refined and contain fewer nutrients.

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates or carbs are among the three macronutrients with others being protein and fat. This means they are one of the main three ways the body obtains calories and energy. Carbs are the main source of energy for the body.

The reason they are called carbohydrates is that they are a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They are molecules that have carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in them.

In simple terms, carbs are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in food.

Sugars: sweet short-chain carbs with examples of glucose, fructose, galactose, and sucrose all found in food.

Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules that are broken down into glucose.

Fiber: a type of carbs that the body can’t digest and passes through the body undigested.

Carbohydrates provide energy to the body when it is broken down and transformed into glucose which is used as energy. They can also be turned into fat which is stored energy for later use.

What are whole and refined carbs?

Carbs food sources are classified further into categories. Simple and complex carbs which are simply whole and refined carbs as it is generally known today.

Whole carbs.

These are natural food sources that are unprocessed and contain fiber in its natural form.

Examples of whole carbs.
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables.
  • Whole fruit.
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes.

Refined carbs.

Refined carbs are carbs that have been processed and stripped of their natural fiber.

Examples of refined carbs.
good carbs vs bad carbs
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  • Fruit juices.
  • Pastries.( cakes, cookies….)
  • White bread
  • White pasta.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages.

Refined carbs are linked to health problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes. They cause major spikes in blood sugar levels that trigger hunger and cravings for more high carb foods.

This is common in sweet and junk foods which tend to be addictive.

Refined carbs lack essential nutrients and they are often referred to as empty calories. The term empty calories means foods with little nutritional value.

Instead of essential nutrients, empty carbs food sources are loaded with solid fats and sugars that may lead to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.

Therefore, on the comparison of whole and refined carbs, whole carbs are healthier since they have essential nutrients and fiber.

Okay, let’s get to the real comparison; Good carbs vs bad carbs

What carbs are good for weight loss?

The best carbs to choose for weight loss are whole carbs. These have all the essential nutrients and natural fiber.

In most cases, they are low in calories yet fully nutritious. Whole carbs are also low in sodium, low saturated fat content, and are low in cholesterol or trans fats too.

For weight loss, the naturally occurring fiber in whole carbs aids in weight loss. Fiber is known to keep a person satisfied for a longer period thus controlling hunger and craving.

The natural fiber also makes a person feel satisfied quicker thus less food eaten.  Hunger control and longer satisfaction by fiber in carbs helps attain weight loss.

Examples of good carbs for weight loss include;
Grains and cereals
  • Wheat bran
  • Shredded Wheat
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Oranges
  • Blueberries.
  • Grapefruit
  • Pear
Baked foods.
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Bran muffin
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Beetroots
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Baked beans
  • Chickpeas
Dried fruits
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds.

What carbs are bad for weight loss?

Bad carbs for weight loss are food sources that have lots of calories yet they are low in nutrients. In most cases, they usually have a lot of added sugars which are among is among the major cause of weight gain and obesity.

When talking of bad carbs, refined carbs sources are a great example.

Bad carbs are those that don’t have fiber in them. Foods without fiber tend to go through digestion quicker triggering hunger. This increases the desire to eat in the end making you eat more calories thus weight gain.

In most cases, refined carbs tend to have a lot of added sugars which is linked to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Examples of bad carb foods for weight loss.
  • Sugary foods.
  • Soda
  • Energy drinks.
  • Vitamin water.
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Fries
  • Fruit juices.
  • Pastries like cookies, cakes, muffins.
  • Ice cream
  • French fries and potatoes chips.
  • Candies and sweets.
  • Chocolates
  • Pizza
  • Foods that are high in added sugars.

Are carbs the cause of obesity?

The answer to this also rotates around good carbs vs bad carbs. Carb diets have partly been able to curb obesity. But this doesn’t mean that obesity is not caused by carbs. So, in summary, the answer to carbs being the cause of obesity is on the bigger side a NO  and this is because,

Added sugars and refined carbs are associated with obesity yet it is not the case with whole carbs food sources that are rich in fiber.

Increased obesity cases sparked off in 1980 yet humans had been eating carbs ever since their existence. This makes the thought of carbs causing obesity a false one.

Think about it, many rural societies around the globe eat carbs yet they have very few or no cases of obesity. Many have staple foods circled around foods that are high in carbohydrates.

However, obesity cases develop in communities that eat a lot of refined carbs and processed foods.

Obesity is associated with refined carbs. These food sources are linked to obesity in the following ways;

  • Refined carbs are low in fiber and thus digested a lot quicker. This contributes to overeating since the person will get hungry much faster. Guess we all know what happens when you overeat. A high-calorie intake that the body may not be able to burn and rather stores it as fat.
  • More so, refined carb food sources often contain a lot of added sugars which are linked to weight gain and obesity after a long time.
  • Blood sugar levels also happen to drop an hour or two after eating foods high in refined carbs. This promotes hunger and increases cravings desire.
  • Overeating of refined carbs leads to belly fat.

Not all carbs will cause obesity. Obesity is associated with refined carbs while whole carbs are mostly healthy with many advantages. It is therefore not conclusive that carbs are the cause of obesity, it is the bad carbs (refined carbs) that increase risk of obesity.

How many carbs should I eat a day to lose weight?

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Many people who go for a low carbs diet tend to lose weight. Also, those who eat a high amount of carbs tend to gain weight when the unused glucose is stored as fat in the body.

The number of carbs to eat in order to lose weight varies in many people depending on age, sex, weight, body type, and activity levels.

It is recommended to get 45-65% of your daily calorie intake from carbs. According to the Dietary Guidelines for America, this should be your target if you aren’t on a low carbs diet.

While on a 2,000-calorie diet, 300 grams per day of carbs is recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, low carbs diets have shown to be effective in weight loss.  Diets like the keto and Atkins restrict consumption of carbs and substitutes it with proteins, and healthy fats.

Is a low carbs diet safe?

The low carbs diet restricts eating foods rich in carbs like white bread, pasta, and substituting them for proteins and healthy fats, and vegetables.

The keto diet is one of the most popular low carbs diets.

Studies show that while on the low carbs’ diet, appetite is less, leading to fewer calorie consumption. Refined food sources also tend to have a lot of added sugars, therefore, restricting them from a diet will save you from added sugars that can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Low carb diets have also got other benefits apart from weight loss. They include lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, and triglycerides. More so, while on a low carbs diet, you have reduced risks of certain cancers, improves acne, and many other benefits of keto diet which is a popular low carbs diet.

However, is the low carbs diet safe despite its many health benefits? Many risks come with a low carbs diet and they include the keto flu, faster weight regain in case you stop the low carbs diet, higher risks of heart disease, and nutrient deficiency.

To learn more about whether a low carb diet is safe for you, you should read this article about the keto diet analysis which is one of the popular low carbs diets.

You can also read another detailed article about the ketogenic diet here

It might be a long debate whether you should embark on a low carbs diet for weight loss . The low carbs diet for weight loss is not for everyone and may increase the chances of health risks in some people.

It is therefore wise to first make research and seek advice from your doctor before embarking on a low carbs diet for weight loss.

The Bottom line.

Removing carbs from your diet may pose a nutrient deficiency or prove to be boring. This comparison of good carbs vs bad carbs is to show you that not all carbs are unhealthy and will cause health risks. It is therefore good to eat whole carbs that are full of fiber and nutrients.


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