In the past five years the reputation of carbohydrates has swung wildly. Carbs have been touted as the feared food in all common foods. And some carbs have also been promoted as a healthful nutrient associated with lower risk of chronic disease.
So which is it? Are carbs good or bad? The short answer is that they are both. Fortunately, it’s easy separate the good from the bad.
We can reap the health benefits of good carbs by choosing carbohydrates full of fiber. These carbs that get absorbed slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. Examples: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans.
We can minimize the health risk of bad carbs by eating fewer refined and processed carbohydrates that strip away beneficial fiber. Examples: white bread.
Most of us know what the good carbs are: plant foods that deliver fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals along with grams of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. You can’t judge a carb as “good” without considering its fiber content (unless it’s a naturally low-fiber food like skim or low-fat milk).
In general, the more refined, or “whiter,” the grain-based food, the lower the fiber.
To get some fiber into almost every meal takes a little effort. Here are three tips:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Just eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will get you to about 10 or more grams of fiber, depending on your choices. Include some beans and bean products in your diet. A half-cup of cooked beans will add from 4 to 8 grams of fiber to your day.
Switch to whole grains every single possible way (buns, rolls, bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, etc).