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Good And Bad Carbs

Are there really good carbs and bad carbs?

"Some carbs are better than others, but it's not really a question of one carb being 'good' and one being 'bad'," says Jack Alhadeff, PhD, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

"If you're eating to get energy for physical activity right away, simple (bad) carbs - pasta, white bread, processed cereals, and the like - work well. If someone is heavy or wants to manage weight, it is smart to chose high-fiber (good) carbohydrates."

Why? Because all carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, or glucose, which is the body's fuel. Carbohydrates with little fiber break down quickly. Those foods with carbohydrates trapped in fiber take longer to break down. The rate at which this happens can be represented on what nutritionists call the glycemic index.

What is fiber?

There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble.

  • soluble fiber is a sticky substance that is found in fruit, vegetables, dried beans and peas, and oat products.
  • Insoluble fiber, which is gritty in texture, accounts for 70% of the fiber in our diets, mostly from wheat bran.
Benefits of High-Fiber Carbs
  • "We eat way too many calories and way too many empty calories," Nagi Kumar says. "Fiber can help you avoid overeating. We've also found that fiber can bind with cholesterol in the digestive tract, thus lowering blood cholesterol".
  • Another important point about fiber-rich foods is that they tend to be loaded with phyto-chemicals that appear to have anti-cancer functions, she says.

    "Pertaining to cancer, we've found 65 or so non-nutrients and nutrients that have action against cancer," she says. "We've seen soy, lycopene, bicarbanol, to name just a few of these, have significant effect against various cancers."

  • Along with these benefits and its role in weight maintenance, fiber helps prevent the following :
    • Constipation
    • Hemorrhoids
    • Appendicitis
    • Diverticulosis - an intestinal disease where pockets, which can become infected, develop in the intestinal lining

The next time you have a choice about what to buy at the store - for instance, between fluffy, white bread and a dark, brown loaf of whole wheat - what do you do?

"Buy the bread that you have to drag out of the store, because the loaf is so heavy and dense," says Kumar. "Everything comes down to the amount of fiber you can get into your food."


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