Good Carbs, Bad Carbs. Can’t We All Get Along?
No sensible healthcare professional will tell you that all carbohydrates are bad for you. The truth is, carbs can be beneficial for your health and your well-being.
The trick is to identify the good carbs from the not-so-good. For patients of my Laguna Beach Functional Medicine Practice, I highly recommend a low carbohydrate diet to promote weight reduction and to avoid insulin resistance, heart disease, and other health issues. But I’m also not discounting the “reward” benefits of a rare expedition into the world of fast-burning carbs. Crazy talk? Read on:
Carbohydrates encompass a large variety of foods, ranging from double-chocolate brownies to boiled broccoli. They can also be divided into two sub categories. These include slow burning — or low glycemic carbs. These plant-based carbohydrates are good for you because they don’t spike blood sugars. In addition, they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and healing phytonutrients.
The other sub-category includes fast-burning or high-glycemic carbs that are found in sugars; high-fructose corn syrup; and white flour used in making foods such as breads, pasta, cookies, cakes. You know. Those yummy foods that the body quickly turns to belly fat.
The difference between low- and high-glycemic carbohydrates is the effect each has on the blood sugar in your body. High-fiber, low-sugar carbohydrates such at cauliflower, digest slowly and don’t lead to blood sugar and insulin spikes. On the other hand, fast-burning, high-glycemic carbohydrates such as cornbread, disrupt appetite controls, causing you to eat more and more and prompting your metabolism to convert all those carbs into belly fat.
So, here’s a simple way to remember what to eat:
- Green carbohydrates: Go for it. Eat all you want, because these are slow-burning, low-glycemic vegetables that include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cucumbers, asparagus, seaweed.
- Yellow carbohydrates: Be cautious here. Eat these carbs in moderation. Examples include whole grains — brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, legumes — as well as dark berries, apples, pears, drupe or stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, and plums.
- Red carbohydrates: Here’s where we introduce the “reward” factor. Stop and think before consuming these goodies. They include starchy high -glycemic cooked vegetables such as winter squashes, peas, potatoes, and corn. Also root vegetables such as yams and beets. And especially high-sugar fruits like bananas, grapes, melons. Eat theses as very infrequent treats — not as daily dietary staples. Treat these carb culprits as an “on-rare-occasion treat.” A reward for doing so well at sticking to a low-carb diet. This holds especially true for dried fruits, processed foods and gluten-containing grains.
Keep in mind that, in an ideal world, 75 percent of your carbohydrate intake should come from non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruits. Being consistent can mean normalizing your weight, preventing sugar crashes and reducing your risk for a number of ailments and diseases.
Remember, a carbohydrate-restricted diet — including “good” carbs for a period of time — may be necessary for those suffering Type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar or obesity. The idea is moderation, with the patient gradually introducing the “green” carbohydrates. And as insulin sensitivity improves, then include some “yellow” and “red” high glycemic carbohydrates. Again, moderation is the key.
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About the Author: Anita Wang, MD, FACEP is a board-certified Emergency Physician, a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a Fellow of the American Academy of Anti-Aging, and has extensive training in Aesthetics. She graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine and has more than two decades of previous experience as an ER doctor at UCLA Medical Center, Eisenhower Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center. For more information, visit AnitaWangMD.com