Good vs Bad Carbs

By Dr. Rick Tague

Good vs Bad Carbs?

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy (energy is also derived from body fat during weight loss), but carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy; especially for the brain.  With the exception of unabsorbable fiber, all carbs are converted into glucose during digestion.  Glucose is the usual source of energy used by every cell in our body.  Carbs are mostly plant-based foods, with the exception of dairy products, which are animal-based carbs.

Good carbohydrates (complex carbs) come from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.  They are full of fiber and other nutrients that get absorbed slowly into our systems, thus minimizing spikes in blood sugar levels.  A “good” carb is one that delivers fiber, vitamins, minerals and other plant nutrients.  Evidence suggests that fiber in the diet may help to prevent colon cancer, decrease the risk of heart disease and promote weight control.

Bad carbs (simple carbs) are those “white” carbs you’ve been hearing so much about.   Ones with added sugars,  and those that have refined all of the goodness out of the grain, thus robbing them of their health benefits.  The average adult takes in about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day (USDA’s recent nationwide food consumption survey).   A single serving of non-diet soda typically has 12 teaspoons of sugar!!   Adding sugars supply calories, but few or no nutrients.  Simple carbs are “empty” calories with little or no nutritional value.  Glucose is unleashed into the bloodstream quickly, causing rapid sugar spikes.

Can carbs be addicting?   Well, not in exactly the way that alcohol or drugs are, but psychologically, there is a powerful drive to eat them according to Judith Wurtman, PhD, MIT Clinical Research Center.   She states, “the only way your brain can make serotonin (the key chemical that lifts mood) is through your intake of carbohydrates.”  Women’s brains typically contain less serotonin than a man’s brain.  Limiting carbohydrates from your diet can make you anxious, depressed, and irritable and can affect your concentration.  Wurtman points out, “when you have those feelings and you’ve been depriving yourself of carbs, you begin to crave them in order to make yourself feel better.”  That’s why at The Center for Nutrition, we carefully calculate and monitor your good carbohydrate intake and control carb cravings!

So, what’s a body to do?  Stay away from the simple carbs and look for complex carbs that your body can utilize, absorb slowly and that provide plenty of that all important fiber and nutrients your body needs!*

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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