Are Carbs Evil?


CARBOHYDRATES are the body’s most preferred source of energy.

In today’s world, with all the media and dogma-diets going around, carbs have been labeled either GOOD or BAD.

Carbs aren’t the necessary evil that they are perceived to be. The issue is; what types of carbs are you consuming. The first thing you hear in a conversation relating to managing weight usually revolves around the subject of carbs; “do you eat carbs?, “Do you eat bread?”. Carbs are perceived as the taboo and evil when it comes to dieting. People tend to have an image of carbs directly relating to fat gain.

In a sense and in certain contexts, there is some truth to that (insulin response, leptin etc which I will write up about in a later article).

The main reason to why a person puts on weight or looses it is energy balance. If you consume more than you burn, you will put the weight on and vise versa. Be it from carbs, protein or fat. You can even gain weight if you take in more calories than you burn in broccoli. Overeating is just easier with carbs since many underestimate the amount of calories in them, not to mention how our daily culture is over generous in high carb containing foods (think rice, bread etc). If we take in more carbohydrates of any kind than is needed for immediate use, the unused portion is stored in the liver or converted into fat and deposited in the tissues for future use.

Actually, carbs can be used to speed up recovery, improve performance and even aid in gaining muscle mass. However, this article is concerned with the general perception of carbohydrates as well as their relation to fat loss.

What people seldom know is that carbs are actually essential for brain function. Carbs are basically used for, but not limited to:

Energy supply for the body’s automatic activity and the performance of daily tasks. The more physical work we perform daily, the more carbohydrates we must proportionately consume.

 A vital part in the digestion process, assimilation (metabolism) and oxidation of protein and fat.

 Foods rich in complex carbohydrates are filled with essential nutrients eg: sweet potatoes, beans, grains etc. The key word here being COMPLEX

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates are filled with essential nutrients required for optimal function of the body eg: sweet potatoes, beans, grains etc. The key word here being COMPLEX

To better understand, we need to classify carbs in their two forms; Simple and complex Carbs and familiarize ourselves with the Glycemic Index (‘GI’). Carbohydrates are converted into glucose before they can be absorbed by the body. The rate at which this conversion takes place and its effect on the body is known as the Glycemic Index and essentially divides carbs into Simple (easily converted into glucose) and complex (requires more time to be converted)

Glycemic Index

According to information published by The University of Sydney, the glycemic index “is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating.” Carbohydrates are the only type of food assigned a glycemic index value because those foods impact blood sugar levels more than others.

High Glycemic Index foods (such as simple carbohydrates) will increase the body’s sugar levels rapidly whereas low glycemic index foods will increase the body’s sugar levels slowly. A good understanding of the glycemic index can assist in weight loss and help control diabetes.

(Refer to the table at the end of the article for an exhaustive list of foods and their GI rating)

Simple Carbs

Simple Carbs are found in some vegetables, fruits and dairy products finally leading to the least nutritional bread, cakes, candy and sugar. Simple carbs are essentially carbs that are easily converted into glucose, they tend to have a high Glycemic Index (the higher the glycemic index, the more you should avoid those foods).

Most simple carbs are completely digested and ready to enter your blood stream with saliva alone. Try this; place a piece of bread / toast in your mouth and without chewing wait for a minute or 2. The piece of bread would be completely broken down.

Very few actually consume fruits and vegetables that tend to be the most nutritious form of simple carbs and the bulk of simple carbs in a diet comprise of bread, sugar laden foods and processed foods containing high amounts of the refined sugar which have very little to offer in terms of nutritional value and are considered empty calories.

They also cause a high insulin spike which actually makes you hungrier when it peaks and signals your body to store fat. Ever had a bowl of pasta and felt quite hungry a while later? that’s due to the high spike in insulin caused and does explain why you are offered bread at restaraunts before a meal 😉 it simply makes you want to eat more.

People also tend to underestimate the amount of calories in processed foods. 2 average sized bread rolls equate to 1.5 times more calories than 2 chicken breasts. Which would do you think will keep you full for longer not to mention have a better nutritional profile?

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are comprised of more than 2 linked sugar units hence the name “complex” versus one or two units that make up simple carbs.

Because complex carbohydrates are, well, complex, with anywhere from three to a a large number of units of sugars, your body takes longer to digest them than it takes to digest simple carbohydrates. As a result, complex carbohydrates provide your body with a slow, constant release of glucose into your bloodstream at a compared to simple carbs. This gives you a longer lasting supply of energy and you avoid the crash or plunge in energy that you get from consuming simple carbs. Complex carbs also tend to contain fiber which also supports in prolonging the digestion process. A few examples of complex carbs are legumes, Starchy vegetables and Whole grains.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, Carbs are the preffered source of energy for your body, I.e they fuel your body and are easily absorbed as glucose for energy or the excess (like any other nutrient; protein & fats) converted into fat.

To sum up, your carb intake should be in relation to your activity levels and should mainly comprise of complex form rather than high sugar, high processed carbs whether your goals are for body composition or general health.

Use the table below to get an idea of the Glycemic Index of your favourite foods;

Notes: * high in empty calories ** low-calorie and nutritious foods 

Food List

Rating

Food Glycemic Index

Bakery Products

*Pound cake

Low

54

Danish pastry

Medium

59

Muffin (unsweetened)

Medium

62

Cake , tart

Medium

65

Cake, angel

Medium

67

Croissant

Medium

67

Waffles

High

76

Doughnut

High

76

Beverages

Soya milk

Low

30

Apple juice

Low

41

Carrot juice

Low

45

Pineapple juice

Low

46

Grapefruit juice

Low

48

Orange juice

Low

52

Biscuits

Digestives

Medium

58

Shortbread

Medium

64

Water biscuits

Medium

65

Ryvita

Medium

67

Wafer biscuits

High

77

**Rice cakes

High

77

Breads

Multi grain bread

Low

48

Whole grain

Low

50

Pita bread, white

Medium

57

Pizza, cheese

Medium

60

Hamburger bun

Medium

61

Rye-flour bread

Medium

64

Whole meal bread

Medium

69

White bread

High

71

White rolls

High

73

Baguette

High

95

Breakfast Cereals

All-Bran

Low

42

Porridge, non instant

Low

49

Oat bran

Medium

55

Muesli

Medium

56

Mini Wheats (wholemeal)

Medium

57

Shredded  Wheat

Medium

69

Golden Grahams

High

71

Puffed wheat

High

74

Weetabix

High

77

Rice Krispies

High

82

Cornflakes

High

83

Cereal Grains

Pearl barley

Low

25

Rye

Low

34

Wheat kernels

Low

41

Rice, instant

Low

46

Rice, parboiled

Low

48

Barley, cracked

Low

50

Rice, brown

Medium

55

Rice, wild

Medium

57

Rice, white

Medium

58

Barley, flakes

Medium

66

Taco Shell

Medium

68

Millet

High

71

Dairy Foods

Yogurt low- fat (sweetened)

Low

14

Milk, chocolate

Low

24

Milk, whole

Low

27

Milk, Fat-free

Low

32

Milk ,skimmed

Low

32

Milk, semi-skimmed

Low

34

*Ice-cream (low- fat)

Low

50

*Ice-cream

Medium

61

Fruits

Cherries

Low

22

Grapefruit

Low

25

Apricots  (dried)

Low

31

Apples

Low

38

Pears

Low

38

Plums

Low

39

Peaches

Low

42

Oranges

Low

44

Grapes

Low

46

Kiwi fruit

Low

53

Bananas

Low

54

Fruit cocktail

Medium

55

Mangoes

Medium

56

Apricots

Medium

57

Apricots  (tinned in syrup)

Medium

64

Raisins

Medium

64

Pineapple

Medium

66

**Watermelon

High

72

Pasta

Spaghetti, protein enriched

Low

27

Fettuccine

Low

32

Vermicelli

Low

35

Spaghetti, whole wheat

Low

37

Ravioli, meat filled

Low

39

Spaghetti, white

Low

41

Macaroni

Low

45

Spaghetti, durum wheat

Medium

55

Macaroni cheese

Medium

64

Rice pasta, brown

High

92

Root Crop

Carrots, cooked

Low

39

Yam

Low

51

Sweet potato

Low

54

Potato, boiled

Medium

56

Potato, new

Medium

57

Potato, tinned

Medium

61

Beetroot

Medium

64

Potato, steamed

Medium

65

Potato, mashed

Medium

70

Chips

High

75

Potato, micro waved

High

82

Potato, instant

High

83

**Potato, baked

High

85

Parsnips

High

97

Snack Food and Sweets

Peanuts

Low

15

*M&Ms (peanut)

Low

32

*Snickers bar

Low

40

*Chocolate bar; 30g

Low

49

Jams and marmalades

Low

49

*Crisps

Low

54

Popcorn

Medium

55

Mars bar

Medium

64

*Table sugar (sucrose)

Medium

65

Corn chips

High

74

Jelly beans

High

80

Pretzels

High

81

Dates

High

103

Soups

Tomato soup, tinned

Low

38

Lentil soup, tinned

Low

44

Black bean soup, tinned

Medium

64

Green pea soup, tinned

Medium

66

Vegetables and Beans

Artichoke

Low

15

Asparagus

Low

15

Broccoli

Low

15

Cauliflower

Low

15

Celery

Low

15

Cucumber

Low

15

Eggplant

Low

15

Green beans

Low

15

Lettuce, all varieties

Low

15

Low-fat yogurt, artificially sweetened

Low

15

Peppers, all varieties

Low

15

Snow peas

Low

15

Spinach

Low

15

Young summer squash

Low

15

Tomatoes

Low

15

Zucchini

Low

15

Soya beans, boiled

Low

16

Peas, dried

Low

22

Kidney beans, boiled

Low

29

Lentils green, boiled

Low

29

Chickpeas

Low

33

Haricot beans, boiled

Low

38

Black-eyed beans

Low

41

Chickpeas, tinned

Low

42

Baked beans, tinned

Low

48

Kidney beans, tinned

Low

52

Lentils green, tinned

Low

52

Broad beans

High

79

 * Source: Southbeach diet GI Reference chart
 
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One thought on “Are Carbs Evil?

  1. Pingback: Leptin: Chief of Fat loss – Part II « The Fitness Grail

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