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Good Carbohydrates vs. Bad Carbohydrates: How to Tell the Difference

Various low carbohydrates diets have been popular since the 1970s, yet medical facilities like the Mayo Clinic state that certain carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet. After years where carbohydrates have been given a bad reputation, you may be confused as to what constitutes a good carbohydrates and what is a bad carbohydrate. This article will help you recognize the difference between a good carbohydrate and bad carbohydrate.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are grouped into two categories: complex carbohydrates or good carbohydrates, and simple carbohydrates or bad carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include table sugar, fructose or fruit sugar or corn syrup.

Carbohydrates come in several forms including sugars, starches and fibers. Complex carbohydrates are created by linking together three or more sugar chains. By having more complex chains, it takes the body longer to break down the carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are already at their simplest form and do not require the body to break them down any further to create energy.

Bad Carbohydrates

Bad carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates that are broken down by the body too quickly to provide an adequate source of nutrients, vitamins or energy. Bad carbohydrates are foods that are composed of refined or processed flours and often include added sugars.

Bad carbohydrates are foods that are easily digestible and provide the body with limited nutrients and vitamins. Because these foods are so quickly digested, your body will experience a quick spike in energy levels followed by a crash in energy.

Examples of bad carbohydrates include soft drinks, most cakes, cookies or chips, white bread, white rice and alcohol.

Eating a diet that is full of bad carbohydrates can lead to a host of medical problems. These issues include weight gain, an increase in the risk of diabetes and an increased chance of heart disease.

Good Carbohydrates

Good carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that take the body longer to break down. These carbohydrates typically are high in fiber, which takes the body longer to break down and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

The best sources of good carbohydrates include fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains and beans. All of these foods provide the body with energy, vitamins, fiber, minerals and phytonutrients.

In addition to fresh fruit and vegetables, examples of good carbohydrates include whole grain cereals, whole wheat breads, brown rice, wheat berries, whole wheat pasta and black beans.

As recommended by the Harvard School of Public Health, choose good carbohydrates, not low carbohydrates or no carbohydrates as part of your diet.

If you have been following a low-carbohydrate diet long term, then you run the risk of having your body enter ketosis. Ketosis is a medical condition that occurs when fats are not completely broken down. This can occur on a low-carbohydrate diet because it is much more difficult for the body to break down fats or protein for energy sources compared to carbohydrates. Side effects of ketosis include nausea, weakness, dizziness and dehydration.

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