Good Carbs & Bad Carbs

Carbohydrates provide your body with glucose it needs to function properly. Two types of carbohydrates exist: complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Foods rich in complex or "good" carbohydrates take time to break down into glucose, while foods high in simple or "bad" carbohydrates convert to glucose very quickly. "Bad" carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to spike, so knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid can play a role in maintaining your overall health.

Whole-Grain Products

Whole-grain products such as brown rice, whole-grain pasta, beans, whole wheat bread, whole oats, buckwheat, millet, whole rye, whole-grain barley and whole-grain corn are considered good carbohydrates. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are beneficial to your health. Also, they have a low glycemic index because they cause a slower change in blood sugar levels. Diets rich in high glycemic index foods cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, thereby increasing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. By contrast, foods with a low glycemic index help you achieve a more stable blood sugar and improve weight loss and control Type 2 diabetes.

Fruits, Vegetables and Legumes

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, nutrients and carbohydrates. People who consume about 2,000 calories per day should eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily. Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are high in fiber, carbohydrates and protein and low in fat. Legumes may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. On a 2,000-calorie daily diet, you should eat 3 cups of legumes a week, according to USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Refined Grains, Sweets and Biscuits

Refined grains such as white bread, pizza crust, pretzels, hamburger buns and mega muffins are bad carbohydrates. During the refining process, these grains are stripped of B-vitamins, fiber and certain minerals. In addition, they also have a high glycemic index, negatively affecting blood sugar levels. Other examples of bad carbohydrates include chips, cookies, sodas, bagels, cake, pastries, pancakes, soda, high fructose corn syrup and baked goods. These foods are low in nutrient density as they have little or no nutritional value and supply a large amount of calories.

According to researchers at Yale University, bad carbohydrates such as sweets and biscuits cause falls in blood sugar, affecting the part of the brain that controls impulse. This leads to a loss of self-control and a desire for unhealthy, high-calorie foods. A diet high in calories contributes to weight gain, which increases the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Suggestions

Include beans in your diet as they are a good source of protein and slowly digested carbohydrates. Harvard School of Public Health suggests eating whole wheat or whole oats for breakfast, using whole-grain breads for lunch or snacks and trying brown rice, wheatberries or millet with dinner. In this way, you can add more good carbohydrates to your diet. The recommended serving sizes for breads and cereals are 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, ½ cup of cooked cereal or ½ cup of cooked dry beans.

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