Carbs are my weakness. If I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life, I would pick bread. Bread just always has a way of finding its way into my mouth.
What is your favorite carb food? I hope it is healthier than mine!
Fortunately, not all carbs are unhealthy. Complex carbohydrates provide energy for all body functions, and they support our daily mental and physical activities.
In addition, carbohydrates help regulate the digestion and utilization of protein and fat.
The key is selecting the good carbs to eat, such as quinoa, oats, apples, kidney beans, chickpeas, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Healthy carbs keep us feeling full and satisfied.
It’s refined and processed carbs from muffins, pasta, white bread, and french fries that make us gain weight because they have little to no nutritional value.
Keep reading, and we’ll dive deeper into which carbs are good for weight loss!
What Are Carbohydrates?
First, let’s get clear about what carbohydrates are and how carbs affect your body.
Carbohydrates are compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Sugars (simple), celluloses (fiber), and starches (complex) are three basic types of carbohydrates. As a rule of thumb, about three-fourths of daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
Sugars include fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (the simple sugar which comes together in chains to make starch and cellulose), sucrose (common sugar you bake into pastries), and lactose (found in milk).
Sugar provides instant, powerful energy because it can easily be broken down in the body.
Cellulose is made up of chains of glucose bonded together and is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables. Since human gut enzymes can’t break down cellulose, we can’t use it for fuel.
However, indigestible carbohydrates like cellulose are essential to us for their dietary fiber. Cellulose provides the bulk necessary for intestinal mobility and aids in elimination.
Starches are composed of long-branching chains of glucose molecules, just like cellulose. Our body can easily break down starches into simple sugars that give us sustained energy and fill us up. Here are some examples of starchy foods:
- Grains: wheat, corn, rice, oats
- Vegetables: yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
- Legumes: beans, lentils, and green peas
What Is The Glycemic Index (GI)?
Another concept you should be familiar with if you want to lose weight is the glycemic index.
According to Glycemic Index Foundation, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods based on how they affect blood sugar levels.
The index pertains mainly to carbohydrates like veggies, fruits, and grains since proteins and fats don’t really affect blood sugar.
The Glycemic Index for food is determined when the particular food is eaten by itself on an empty stomach. Of course, meals containing protein, fat, and other carbohydrates can change the glycemic effect of single foods.
The bottom line is foods that are LOWER on the glycemic index are GOOD sources of complex carbohydrates (starches) because they are RICH in fiber and overall nutritional value.
All in all, the glycemic index is designed to help you figure out which carbs are good and which you must avoid, because as I stated before, not all carbs are created equal!
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Healthy Carbs For Weight Loss
Whole food sources of complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains are highly beneficial and nutritious. Our bodies are genetically designed to eat them.
They take a long time to digest and help stabilize your blood sugar level. Besides, they are packed with important minerals, vitamins, and nutrients essential for optimal health.
Did you know that whole plant foods contain at least 100,000 protective substances, such as phytochemicals and carotenoids, that protect against serious diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes?
It has been shown repeatedly that people who eat carb-rich (plant-rich) diets are trimmer, stronger, fitter, and live a lot longer than those whose diets are super heavy in animal foods, high in protein and fat.
So, if you don’t eat good carbs, you won’t benefit from all the health-promoting nutrients, and your health will be more likely to suffer.
Healthy carbohydrate foods:
- All vegetables
- Nuts (ex. walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds)
- Seeds (ex. pumpkin seeds, chia seeds)
- Whole fruits (ex. bananas, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, grapefruit, apples)
- Legumes (ex. lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas)
- Whole grains (ex. brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, oats, oatmeal)
- Tubers (ex. potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, taro, cassava)
Good carbs will keep you full and satisfied longer, which will ultimately lead to weight loss!
Bad Carbs For Weight Loss
Simple carbohydrates are the ones that get broken down super duper quickly in the body, triggering insulin release and encouraging fat storage.
Simple carbs usually come in the form of refined sugars and processed grains.
They are always found in packaged foods like candy, baked goods, white bread, cookies, crackers, chips, sugary cereals, and other foods made with white flour that contain little or zero fiber.
Those bad carbs break down so quickly in our bodies because they have undergone many chemical procedures during factory processing.
Refined and processed foods can really become addictive both psychologically and physically.
When you experience the pleasure effect from eating unhealthy foods, you will want to eat more and more.
Click the link to learn more about how to stop craving vegan junk food.
You need to keep in mind that bad carbs are just empty calories. They contain few nutrients and are usually loaded with lots of fat and salt.
The bottom line is to stay away from bad carbs because they can sabotage you and lead to weight gain and many health problems.
How To Get the Best Carb-Rich Foods
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, it’s always best to select whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods from plant sources.
Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice. Consume a whole-grain side dish and fresh vegetables rather than potato chips or crackers.
By doing so, you will surely get good carbohydrates that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Myths About Carbs That Are False
MYTH #1: CARBS MAKE YOU FAT
If you eat a lot of bad, processed carbs such as packaged junk food, doughnuts, cupcakes, muffins, white bread, etc., you will surely put on weight.
These unhealthy carbs can really mess up your metabolic hormones as well as your blood sugar level balanced.
The primary reason why people have a sugar crash or constantly crave carbs is that they eat junk carbs.
In addition, by eliminating or cutting out healthy carbs like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, your body won’t be able to get essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.
Yes, you will lose a few pounds by going low-carb, but just because you cut back on carbs doesn’t mean that you’re burning all your stubborn fat. What you actually lose is your water weight.
Truthfully, healthy carbs can promote weight loss and help maintain an ideal, healthy weight because of their fiber content. Fiber is what gives you energy and fills you up.
Carbs are actually more filling than fat or protein. They keep you satisfied longer because they are digested more slowly than other foods.
So, by focusing on the quality of carbs and eating healthy filling carbs, you’ll be able to curb your hunger and cravings.
MYTH #2: CARBS CAUSE TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes can be caused by several reasons (family history, lack of exercise, overweight, obesity, abdominal fat, old age, bad diet habits, etc.).
Healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes DO NOT cause diabetes.
In fact, diets rich in FAT are what trigger type 2 diabetes. For more information on why fat is the cause of type 2 diabetes, check out NutritionFacts.org.
Several studies show that consuming a diet high in fatty foods (diets rich in meat and dairy products) causes fat particles to expand inside our cells.
And because of these fat particles, it’ll be hard for insulin to move sugar out from the bloodstream to our cells.
Rather than providing our cells with energy, the glucose (sugar) just stays in our bloodstream. That’s how diabetes happens.
People generally think that a lower-carb diet can help treat type 2 diabetes; however, low-carbohydrate diets are typically higher in animal products.
Animal foods such as meat and dairy products are high in saturated fat, harmful to our health. High saturated fat intake may raise the risk of diabetes, heart attack, colon cancer, and other serious illnesses.
There are actually others who have success with higher carbohydrate, plant-based diets. Take Marc Ramirez for an example, Marc’s mom and his siblings all battled type 2 diabetes, and he was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
In the beginning, he wanted to improve his health by starting a low-carb diet and working out. However, he then found himself on daily insulin injections and still had to take four different medications.
After he learned about all the great benefits of eating plant-based foods, he and his spouse decided to give it a shot.
He eliminated animal products and limited high-fat foods. He did not count carbs or calories. He would eat foods such as oatmeal with fruits, pasta primavera (a dish consisting of pasta and veggies), and black bean burritos.
Surprisingly, within two months, Marc dropped his daily insulin injections and all his medications. Now his blood glucose levels are entirely normal.
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, eating a plant-based diet, limiting high-fat foods, eating foods low on the glycemic index, consuming about 40 grams of fiber daily can prevent, manage, and even reverse type 2 diabetes.
Besides eating plant-based foods that are lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber, getting physical activity daily can also help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by stabilizing your blood glucose.
MYTH #3: FRUITS MAKE YOU FAT
A lot of people believe that fruit makes them fat because of the sugar and carb content.
Fruit has a lot of natural sugar, which is not the same as the refined or processed sugar that makes you sick and fat.
Fruits are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that benefit you numerous ways.
The fiber in fruits helps slow down the digestion of glucose, preventing you from getting the insane insulin spikes you would with processed junk.
Moreover, fruits are super low in fat, so getting fat from just fruits alone is impossible because of the way carbs are metabolized in our bodies.
If someone tells you that eating an apple is the same as eating a Twix bar, correct and educate them right away!
MYTH #4: LOW-CARB DIET ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
You probably always hear people say that anyone can quickly lose weight and get healthy on a low-carb diet, and that’s a lie.
When you look at people that do a low carbohydrate diet over the long run, a great many of them whose cholesterol levels go up, and their heart risk goes up, so it’s not really a healthy diet at all.
Low-carb diets are typically high in saturated fat (a type of solid fat at room temperature like lard).
While some plant-based foods contain saturated fats such as coconuts, coconut oil, and palm oil, saturated fats are mainly derived from animal-based foods like dairy products, meat, and eggs.
So when you go low-carb, you’re encouraged to eat more animal foods that are rich in saturated fat and cholesterol. This is considered detrimental to our health.
Low-carb diets have a significant negative impact on heart health. For more information on how low-carb diets are found to feed heart disease, check out NutritionFacts.org.
According to Dr. Milton Mills, our bodies need carbohydrates because they are our preferred source of energy. Our brain can’t function if we don’t eat enough carbs.
The human brain only weighs about 3 pounds, but it uses 25% of the energy we burn every single day, and it’s all in the form of sugar.
Say, if someone with diabetes whose blood sugar level goes way too low, they will immediately go into a coma because the brain can’t function without it.
The problem with carbs is that nowadays, people are eating too many processed, refined carbohydrates packed with grease. Instead of eating whole grain rice or whole wheat bread, we eat white rice or white bread.
When the fiber is wholly removed from plant food, the starch can be broken down so quickly, so it’s like we are eating pure sugar. That is what causes a spike in insulin levels.
If your insulin levels are elevated most of the time, it prevents your body from burning fat, promoting weight gain.
Our brain is always craving carbohydrates because, after all, that is what it needs to run itself on.
So, what happens is that we eat a muffin or a mall pretzel loaded with white flour and grease. Eating those bad carbs makes the insulin level go up, and your sugar level go down. That’s why we keep feeling hungry.
Rather than eating high starch foods like yams that fuel our brain and body, we are eating proportionately a lot more grease that ends up going straight into our fat cells.
Many studies have repeatedly shown that low-carb diets are associated with a higher risk of chronic disease. All in all, it’s best to eat whole plant foods because those plant foods have fiber in them.
When carbohydrates are surrounded by fiber, it prevents your blood sugar levels from spiking too high, and it also prevents them from falling rapidly, so you don’t always feel hungry.
MYTH #5: CARBS MAKE YOU TIRED
Every single cell in our bodies needs carbohydrates for energy. Therefore, if you consume too few carbs, you will feel sluggish and not think clearly.
In addition, cutting out carbs can lead to mental fatigue, weakness, dizziness, constipation, and other health issues.
People feel tired because they eat foods that score HIGH on the glycemic index, such as sweets, refined grains, white bread, and white potatoes. These foods digest way too quickly and cause blood sugar spikes.
And once the blood sugar falls, your energy declines, and cravings creep in.
These high glycemic-index foods increase serotonin in the brain that can easily make you sleepy and tired.
On the other hand, low glycemic-index foods, such as oatmeal, yams, and beans, won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. They will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep your energy from flagging.
Many people feel heavy after eating a big meal full of meat, cheese, and other animal foods packed with fats. Therefore, not just high glycemic-index foods that make people tired. Fatty foods also leave people drained.
All in all, you can always turn to healthy carbs to help stop cravings and keep your energy up throughout the day.
MYTH #6: ALL CARBS ARE CREATED EQUAL
There are good carbs and bad carbs. Generally speaking, food that falls into the unhealthy column is overly modified and processed.
These highly refined foods, like sweets, baked foods, sugary drinks, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners, are stripped of fiber and nutrients. They are loaded with salt, fat, preservatives, and chemicals.
You must immediately trash all these unhealthy foods since they are packed with empty calories that cause weight gain and disrupt your body’s immunity and metabolism.
Get the right complex carbohydrates found in whole plant foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and tubers.
These healthy carbs contain essential fiber that helps keep your blood sugar from dropping and spiking.
Remember that quality matters. The bottom line is that you need to eat good carbs so that your body can benefit from many health-promoting nutrients and function at an optimal level.
Carbs are good for weight loss, complex carbohydrates that are nutrient-dense, that is!
Carbohydrates are a natural fuel for the brain, muscles, kidneys, heart, and central nervous system.
Populations whose diets are heavily based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are the healthiest and live the longest.
Just remember to avoid complex carbs such as refined grains, highly processed foods, sweets, and sugary drinks.
LilyHi, I'm Lily! Like you, I have struggled with my weight. It was not an easy journey but I was able to lose 40 pounds and have kept it off for 14 years. My goal is to share with you all the research, tips, and tricks that I have learned over the years to help you lose weight also.
Download this cheat sheet to learn the secrets to go from busy and out-of-shape to energetic and fit!