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The Good And Bad Of Carbs And Fats

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One of the things that defines a carbohydrate (carb) as either good or bad is its glycemic index (GL) which is an indicator of how fast the body processes it. The higher a GL number, the worse it is for you.

Foods high on the GL table are referred to as simple carbs which are high in real sugar and low in fiber (because it is removed during processing); simple carbs tend to spike blood sugar and provide very little nutrition and for those two reasons should not be used as a primary source of nutrition.

It is O.K. to have them once in a while, but not all the time. Foods falling into the bad carb category typically include soda, candy, artificial syrups, pastries and desserts because they are high in sugar; white rice, bread and pasta are also on the list because during processing, the fiber was processed out of it.

Even within the simple carb category, some foods are better choices than others. For example, a cup of white rice has a GL of 91, but the same serving of white spaghetti only has a GL of 64 making it a better choice.

Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs

Good carbs are referred to as complex carbohydrates and are low in sugar and high in fiber. Usually anything made from a whole grain falls into the complex category because the flour it is made from has not been as processed, thus retaining much of its fiber. Fiber of course keeps you fuller longer, thus curbing your appetite longer. In the end you’ll consume fewer calories making weight management easier.

Choosing a good carb over a bad one is as simple as choosing brown rice instead of white, or a whole grain bread over one made with white flour. As far as GL value, a cup of brown rice has a value of 79 while the same measurement of white rice shows up at 91.

Most Glycemic Index tables also contains one other type of carb measurement – Glycemic Load. The GL Load of a food refers to the amount of carbohydrates in a food. The lower amount of carbs, the less impact it will have on blood sugar spiking. Some foods can be misleading if you look just at their GL Load.

For example watermelon has a high GL of 103, but a low GL Load of only 52. Compare that with another fruit the pear; it has a GL of 54, and a GL Load of 57. Watermelon has fewer carbs than a pear even though it has almost twice the GL value.

The bottom line is choose carbs sensibly. Focus on eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables to get the nutrition your body needs while minimizing eating simple carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar and make you hungry sooner.

Good Fats Vs. Bad Fats

Fats are an interesting subject of nutrition. Many people think that all fat is bad for the body. Not long ago a popular diet was one of avoiding all fats – fat-free.

But the truth is the body needs fat in order to survive. Thirty percent of calories consumed each day should come from fat, however, only 7% should come from saturated and less than 1% from trans-fat.

For example, without fat the body would not be able to process the fat-soluble vitamins of A, D, E, K – all necessary for good health. And your body needs the essential fatty acids called linoleic and alpha-linoleic (Omega 6) to maintain skin, hair and promote wound healing. It has to derive it from food as it is incapable of making it.
However, there are good fats along with the bad. The good fats are the unsaturated ones – poly and mono – while the bad ones are the saturated and trans-fat.

While both the saturated and unsaturated occur naturally in foods, trans-fats are generally a manufactured fat produced by hydrogenating liquid fat into a solid at room temperature.  Food manufacturers use it to extend the shelf life of their products. While some trans-fat is naturally occurring in meat and dairy, the amount is inconsequential. Manufactured trans-fat should be avoided as much as possible.

Unsaturated fats help lower your bad LDL cholesterol and raise your good HDL. Good sources of mono-unsaturated fat include walnuts, almonds, pistachios from the nut family and certain oils such as olive, avocado and canola. Foods containing the poly-unsaturated Omega 3 include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring, while the oils corn, soy, safflower and sunflower contain Omega 6.

On the other hand saturated fats raise the bad LDL cholesterol thus increasing your risk of heart disease by forming plaque inside your arteries. This type of fat is generally found in red meat, dairy, eggs and seafood, but is also found in certain plant oils; mainly coconut, palm and palm-kernel.

To eat healthy as far as fats are concerned, use healthy unsaturated oils in cooking and read nutritional labels. Look for foods low in saturated fat. Even though the label may show no trans-fat, the item may still have some in it.

Add up both the saturated and unsaturated fat grams. Compare that number to the total fat. If the numbers are not the same, the difference is trans-fat. According to FDA standards, if it is less than 0.5 of a gram, manufacturers don’t have to declare it on the label.

Knowing what is good and bad is half the battle. Now it is up to you to implement what you know about fats and to choose your foods wisely.

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