In the world of health and nutrition, there is a lot of confusion surrounding carbohydrates. For instance, an athlete—like a long distance runner—may carb load as a major source of energy before a big race.
This is a good scientifically proven and effective way to delay fatigue and optimize glycogen stores to help maintain endurance. Glycogen is how carbohydrates are stored in the liver and skeletal muscle.
Many others will eat lots of carbs as a source of energy after an intense workout. The rest of us eat the standard American diet, aka SAD diet, which is full of carbs.
The questions about carbs that need to be asked are: what carbs are good, and which are bad? Also, how many carbs are needed, and how often should you eat them? First of all, all carbs are considered sugar in the body; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all carbs are for you.
When I talk about good carbs versus bad carbs, I am not referring to complex and simple carbs. The following is a brief synopsis of why certain high carbs should be avoided, and the reason why others should be added to your diet.
It is also a list of the top 10 high carb foods to avoid, and also 10 others that should be included in any healthy diet plan.
High Carb Foods to Avoid
Bad carbs are considered those that are:
- Void of nutrients and contain “empty calories.” Basically, they contain macronutrients like carbs but are void of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals that are required to metabolize the sugar within your food.
- These foods are usually refined, processed, and man-made foods in a factory that, when eaten in excessive amounts, can have a major impact on your digestive tract and blood sugar levels. They can lead to major health problems like cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Bad carbs make a mess of your blood sugar levels and send your insulin into overdrive. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates, your body needs to release lots of insulin to bring your blood sugar to non-toxic levels.
When you eat a lot of carbs on a regular basis, you will consistently release insulin. Although it is a normal bodily response, the high blood sugar and high insulin will constantly put you in storage mode, which means your body is never releasing or burning fat for fuel.
Let’s take a brief look at what high carb foods you should make an extra effort to avoid.
1. Cereal: Cereal is essentially void of nutrients and it is often full of food additives like maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup. Any cereal product likely is full of bad carbs per a three-quarter cup, including crispy rice (27.2g), corn pops (26.9g), and frosted flakes (26.8g).
2. Bread, Bagels, Pizza, Etc.: Breads and dough in general should not be consumed in the high amounts that most people do, as many enjoy sandwiches, tortillas, and pizza as a regular part of their diet. Per piece or slice, bagels contain 58.7g of carbs, most pizza contains around 40g, tortillas contain 15.4g, and white bread contains 14.3g.
3. Pasta: Pasta is another North American staple that is part of every weekly diet, and it contains around 25g per of carbs per 100g serving. Standard pasta is made with refined wheat flour, and during the refining process much of its fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are removed.
4. Sugars, Syrups and Sweeteners: Bakers and shoppers beware: sugars, syrups, and sweeteners are all high in bad carbs per teaspoon. This includes many man-made products with fructose (4g), aspartame (3.6g), powdered sugar (3g), and brown sugar (2.9g).
Honey and maple syrup are often considered good sugar sources, but be sure to use sparingly. Also, that added sugar in your coffee or tea should be avoided as well.
5. Candy: When you eat 10 pieces of jelly gumdrops that contains about 35.6g of carbs. Other high-carb candies per 10 pieces include chocolate tootsie rolls (61g), hard candies (59g), butterscotch (43.5g), jellybeans (26.2g), and even chewing gum (29g).
Tooth decay, insulin resistance, and an increase risk of depression, heart disease, and osteoporosis are only some of the health problems linked with candy consumption.
6. Snacks like Potato Chips: Who doesn’t like snack time? Unfortunately, each high-carb snacks will wreck havoc on your blood sugar levels, especially each ounce of potato chips (23.5g), pretzels (22.8g), granola bars (22.2g), tortilla chips (17.7g), and white rice cakes (22.7g).
7. Cakes and Cookies: Many people have a sweet tooth, aka a possible sugar addiction that they give into on a regular basis. However, these are often high-carb choices like each cookies (6.7g), butter cookies (20.8g), animal crackers with chocolate (21g), or coffee cake (29.6g) that are detrimental to a person’s weight and overall health.
8. Refined Flours: Refined flours contain dangerous high amounts of carbs per cup, including white, all-purpose flour (95.4g), potato flour (133g), and white rice flour (126.6). These flours are again void of nutrients, and contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
9. Sugary Drinks: One can of pop will contain about 38.9g of carbs, and other high-carb drinks per cup include strawberry milkshake (53.3g), fruit flavored drinks (38.2g), and orange juice (33.4g). Unfortunately, consuming large amounts of sugary drinks will increase your risk of weight gain, and developing heart disease, gout, and type 2 diabetes.
10. Potatoes: Potatoes contain 54.8g of carbs per cup. They can be a healthy carb source, but the problem is how potatoes are most often served, including mashed potatoes, instant mashed potatoes, hash browns, and French fries.
Potatoes in general are high of the glycemic index, which dramatically increase your blood sugar and insulin levels like most high-carb foods. Potatoes may also trigger gas and bloating when you eat too many potato dishes.
Healthy Good Carb Foods
On the other hand, good carbs:
- Are easily bio-available and digestible nutrients that make it possible to metabolize at a cellular level.
- Are available as natural whole foods that also contain fiber that helps with regular elimination and removal of toxins from the body.
So, the key is for foods high in carbohydrates to also be healthy. When you eat whole and nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and root vegetables, your body will get everything it needs in one healthy package to effectively turn those calories into energy.
Let’s take a look at 10 natural whole foods that are good sources of carbohydrates.
1. Whole Grains: High-carb gluten grains per cooked cup will include barley (44.3g), couscous (36.5g), spelt (51.3g), and bulgar (33.8g). Most of the time these are healthy foods; however, you should avoid them if you suffer from gluten sensitivity.
2. Non-Gluten Grains: Instead there are healthy high-carb non-gluten grains available for consumption per cooked cup, including brown rice (45.8g), millet (41.2g), quinoa (39.4g), amaranth (46g), and teff (50g). Quinoa and brown rice also combine well for a healthier and non-gluten pasta source.
3. Beans: Beans are not only high carbohydrates foods they are also high in fiber and other key nutrients. For instance, pinto beans contain 44.8g of carbs and 14.7g of fiber per cup. Kidney beans (40.4g), adzuki beans (57g), and navy beans (47.4g) are other high-carb bean sources.
4. Lentils: Lentils and other high-carb legumes are also good sources of fiber that are good for digestion. For instance, lentils contain about 40g of carbs per cooked cup and also over 15g of fiber. Also, per cup split peas have 41.4g of carbs and 16.3g of fiber and chickpeas have 27.4g of carbs and 12.5g.
5. Nuts: Nuts are a high-carb sources that can replace dairy in some recipes because they also contain a lot of calcium. Some good nut sources per cup include cashews (9.2g), almonds (6g), pistachios (8.2g), and walnuts (15g).
6. Seeds: Seeds are also very nutrient-dense carb-sources. For instance, two tablespoons of flaxseeds not only contain 6.6g of carbs, but they also contain over 5g of fiber, and 3.5g of omega-3 fatty acids. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds (6.1g), sesame seeds (8.4g), and sunflower seeds (6.75g) are also good high-carb seed choices.
7. Vegetables: Non-root vegetables are not grown underground in the dirt. Fiber-rich vegetables like green peas (25g), broccoli (8g), and asparagus (7.6g) also contain lots of carbs per cup.
8. Root Vegetables: Most root vegetables often contain more carbs than green leafy vegetables. Some great root vegetables high-carb sources per 100g include taro root (35g), yams (27g), sweet potatoes (21g), parsnips (17g), onions (10g), beets (10g), carrots (10g), and butternut squash (10g).
9. Fruit: Fruit is a great addition to a morning smoothie or an afternoon snack. Some delicious high-carb fruits per cup include apples (25.1g), pears (27.1g), mango (50.3g), blueberries (21.4g), and kiwi fruit (10.1g).
10. Dried Fruit: It is sometimes a good idea to increase your carb intake from adding dried fruit to salads and simply snacking on a few. High-carb sources of dried fruit per cup include raisins (130.6g), dates (21g), currants (20.7g), and prunes and figs (17.9g).
What Can Help Fuel Your Body Instead of Carbs?
Instead of eating lots of high-carbs, whether healthy or not, it is better to increase your fat intake. In order to effectively use fat for fuel, you have to stop giving it sugar all day and every day.
When you stop eating so many high carbs, and instead it healthy fats, your body will relearn how to function, and the body will burn not only the fat that you eat, but the food that gets stored as fat, i.e. all those processed high-carb foods like breads and sodas.
If you consume high-carb foods to help fuel your body, you may want to try combining healthier high-carb foods with healthy fats. What are healthy fat sources to get you through your day? The best fat sources include avocados, ground flaxseed or chia seed, coconut oil, or organic butter or ghee.