This is part 3 in our series of the Vitality Triangle (check out parts 1 and 2, where we’ve explored the importance of adequate protein and good fats). Good carbs occupy the third corner on the Zing Vitality Triangle and is a key component of balanced, healthy nutrition.
You might be thinking, “then why do carbs get so much bad press?” It’s true, carbs tend to be labeled the enemy in a lot of modern fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo.
However, there’s a tendency to label all carbs as “bad.” But in doing so, we forget that carbohydrates are our primary energy source and that there is a different between “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” While there are certainly sources of carbs that can be considered less than ideal, that is far from the whole story.
Good Carbs versus Bad Carbs
Certain carbohydrates are digested quickly in our bodies. These are the “bad” ones that spike blood sugars - sugar, soda, candy and sweets are classic examples.
Refined grains are another culprit. Think white rice, white bread and baked goods like muffins, cupcakes, bagels, cookies, crackers and cakes. When you process grain, you essentially refine out its dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and essential fats. The result is a white powdery substance—flour—that acts just like its cousin—sugar—that other white powdery substance. They both break down quickly in your digestive system, and spike blood sugar levels.
How Bad is “Bad”?
The effects can be wide ranging and destructive:
- High blood sugar leads to elevated insulin levels, which turn the circulating blood sugar to fat, which in turn leads to weight gain and fatty liver
- The resulting low blood sugar level signals the brain to seek out more glucose, which is perceived by us as hunger and cravings for the most readily available source—sugar and refined carbs
- This process of blood sugar spikes and crashes is known as the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster where we literally feel hungry all the time and also gain weight
- Low blood sugars not only cause cravings, but also make us tired, irritable and distracted. Most of us are now familiar with the term “hangry.”
Why Are Some Carbs Good?
Carbs are essential for thinking and moving. They are, in fact, our primary energy source, releasing slowly into our bloodstream and fueling both mind and body.
Healthy carbs contain fiber, digest slowly, and don’t spike blood sugars. They are scientifically known as low-glycemic. Examples include fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and low-glycemic sweeteners like agave. These carbohydrates are digested slowly into glucose and provide an even, measured supply of energy to our system.
Forty-five to sixty percent of our food intake should come from good carbs. If you work, think, move, walk, lift, dance, climb, step, bounce, laugh, blink – you get the idea – then you need healthy carbs.
How Can I Tell the Difference? I’m Not a Scientist.
Veggies, fruits, grains and beans are the primary source of good carbs. For packaged food, take a look at the nutrition facts label. Good carbs contain fiber to slow that digestive process down – we recommend a minimum of 3g of fiber per serving.
The next time you’re feeling hangry, or feeling a few zzzzz’s setting in, do yourself a favor and don’t shy away from good carbs. They absolutely have a welcome place on the plate during the day. Eating in conjunction with adequate protein and good fats – each cornerstone of the Zing Vitality Triangle—you’ll find yourself with long-lasting, healthy energy during your day!
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