Carbs: The good, the bad and the even worse

Head: Carbs: The good, the bad and the even worse

You’re bombarded with information about carbohydrates. You may have even been frightened of them at one point – or maybe you are right now. However, not all carbs do the same thing. Actually, some carbs are good for you and necessary to keep your body going strong. Others though, may be the reason for the pants feeling tight. Where do refined carbohydrates fall on the health scale? You’re about to find out.


To get a refined carbohydrate, a whole food is taken that contains carbs, than everything else in that food is stripped away, leaving only the refined carbohydrate. After the chemical process is done you no longer have a whole food, it’s either a starch or sugar.

When eaten, refined carbohydrates give your body a quick boost in glucose (a.k.a. sugar), which can be helpful right before you get started in some sort of athletic endeavour, such as a sprint or a soccer game. However, eating refined carbohydrates on a regular basis, regardless of what you’re doing afterward, can leave you with a rather useless store of carbs. They can throw your blood sugar and insulin levels out of whack and put you into a fat-storing mode instead of a fat burning mode.

Avoid the white plague

To avoid eating too many refined carbohydrates, you should know what they look like and where they’re most often found. Thankfully, they’re rather easy to see, so you can sidestep them with ease. Most often, refined carbs are white on their own, but they can easily hide without being recognized. Examples are white rice/bread, processed/frozen meals, etc.

What to choose instead

Since refined carbohydrates aren’t doing your body much good, do your best to go for foods with natural carbohydrates.

One of the items that gets stripped from carbohydrates during the refining process is fibre. Since fibre is helpful in your goal of good bowel health; avoiding heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and kidney stones; and maintaining a healthy weight, you want to make sure fibre is there. Instead of going with fibre-stripped carbohydrates, choose foods that contain fibre-rich carbs.

You still need carbohydrates

Still not convinced that you need carbohydrates in your diet? Has the popular no-carb diet craze given you mixed signals? You’re not alone.

While you don’t want to fill up on refined carbohydrates, you do want to eat plenty of good carbohydrates. In fact, a typical diet should contain 50% good carbs. You need them for energy, brain function and to promote a healthy metabolism. Stay away from the refined chemical carbs and open your arms to health-boosting whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So why do anti-carb diets work sometimes?

If you’ve ever gotten into a diet that cuts you off from all carbohydrates, you probably lost some weight. If you’re supposed to need carbs, so why did you lose weight? There are three reasons.

The first is that cutting carbohydrates from your diet often results in a loss of water weight, as not eating carbs may cause you to urinate more frequently and with greater volume.

The second is that any diet that forces you to avoid one sort of food altogether will result in eating fewer calories. While this is a good thing at first, it’s healthier to trim calories from all the food groups instead of picking on carbohydrates only.

The third is that diets that trim carbohydrates do not trim protein or fat, which both cause you to feel full faster and longer, reducing your desire to eat.

Even though you may see results, it is only temporary. Most of the initial weight is water (and it comes back fast).

Fact is you need carbs. However, not all carbs are created equal (they’re tricky little guys). Natural carbs give you energy and burn fat – bad carbs add to your waistline and make you crave more. As with anything you must find a balance and always choose the natural, whole foods whenever you can. A diet with plenty of vegetable, fruits and whole grains will take the guesswork out and give you the body you want.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer. He can be reached at 403-347-1707 or check out for more information.