What are good carbs vs bad carbs? Although carbohydrates play an important role in the diet, not all carbs act the same when it comes to blood sugar. According to the authors of Magic Foods, certain carbs wreak havoc on blood sugar, which then cause blood sugar levels to rapidly rise and fall.
When this blood glucose roller coaster effect happens on an everyday basis, there can be serious health consequences such as:
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Memory loss
- Low energy
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Increased risk of a heart attack
- Increased risk of certain types of cancer
- Insulin resistance
- Metabolic Syndrome
Fast-Acting Carbs Vs. Slow-Acting Carbs
All carbs raise blood sugar, but some carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar higher and faster than others since these types of carbs are easy for the body to convert into glucose rather quickly. These foods are known as fast-acting carbs. Fast-acting carbs cause the body to counteract this great rush of blood sugar by pumping out too much insulin, which then brings blood sugar levels back down rapidly. Often, this causes blood sugar to drop too low and headaches, fatigue, and hunger can occur.
Top 10 carbs to avoid
Examples of fast-acting carbs are:
- White rice
- White bread
- Instant oatmeal
- Sports beverages
Are there any good carbs? Foods that contain slow carbs do not cause significant spike in blood sugar levels and are easier on the body. Slow-acting carbs take a lot more for the body to break down. So while blood sugar raises slightly, it doesn’t spike quickly.
Eating slow-acting carbs has many health benefits including:
- Controlled blood sugar levels
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Improved memory
- Decreased risk of heart disease
- Reduced cholesterol levels
Slow-acting carbs list
Some foods that contain slow-acting carbs are:
- Grains: wheat and corn tortillas, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, bulgar, quinoa, oat bran, barley, stone-ground wheat bread, sourdough, spelt bread, and All-Bran™ Cereal.
- Beans and pulse: baked beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, kidney beans, and navy beans.
- Dairy: cheese, low-fat and full-fat milk, cottage cheese, yogurt.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables are slow-acting carbs such a green salads, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, mushrooms, etc. You can view this list of Low Glycemic vegetables.
- Fresh Fruits: peach, grapefruit, plum, cherry, apple and more! You can view this list of low Glycemic fruits.
- Peanut butter and nut butter made from low GI nuts.
- Nuts: hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios,
- Seeds: sesame, squash, sprouted seeds, amaranth, and sunflower
Ranking Foods as Fast-Acting or Slow-Acting
The effect a food has on blood glucose levels is measured by the Glycemic Index (GI) and is based on a certain amount of carbohydrates. If foods cause blood sugar to raise quickly, those foods are considered high on the GI; however, foods such as watermelon and strawberries rank high on the GI and these types of foods would be restricted on a GI diet even though they do not cause blood sugar to spike.
A GI number of 55 or less is considered low, 55 to 69 is medium, and 70 or above is high. A GI of 70 or above definitely identifies a fast carb.
Glycemic Load (GL), on the other hand, measures not only the type of carbohydrate in a food, but also the amount of carbohydrates that would be eaten in a standard serving, which is often less than 50 grams per serving. Those foods in which a single serving raises and lowers blood sugar quickly are ranked as high-GL foods.
While eating foods low on either the GI or the GL has many health benefits, the GL can be a better measurement in regards to good foods to eat since fruits and vegetables and other low-calorie, healthy foods are not ranked as high-GL foods and are included in a GL diet.
Choosing foods that are slow-acting carbs is definitely a better health option. By eating a balanced diet, and avoiding foods that are fast-acting carbs, you can better control your blood sugar and avoid the blood glucose roller coaster effect.