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Good Carbohydrates vs Bad Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates play a prominent role in dietary habits all over the world and yet this is one food-group that has received quite a bit of spotlight especially in recent years. The questions that are often asked are many:

– Can the human body do without carbohydrates?
– Are they really necessary?
– Can they be substituted with any other food group?
– Are carbs responsible for your weight gain?

Our fear with regard to carbohydrates is so deeply rooted that we’re likely to say no to a slice of white bread with butter but we don’t stop to bat an eyelid when we’re offered hot fries dripping with oil. So why do carbohydrates usually get a rap for being bad and do we really need them?

To put it simply, yes we do. Whenever we ingest some form of carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose which acts as a steady fuel for the mind and body 24 hours a day. And of course, that’s what helps you get the best out of every kick in your martial arts classes as well. But here’s the catch. Just like there are good fats and bad fats, there are also good carbs and bad carbs. Understanding the difference between both can help you make smarter food choices that enhance both mind and body:

– Complex carbohydrates or ‘good carbs’ refer to unrefined, unprocessed food sources that break down slowly in the body. Besides keeping sugar levels at an optimum, they also keep you full for longer. Food items like wholegrain bread, vegetables, legumes, pulses and wholegrain cereals are some examples of complex carbs. One of the best ways to find out more sources of such good carbohydrates in your diet is by referring to a chart showing foods that have a low GI rating.

– Simple carbohydrates on the other hand are so much easier to find and do little else for the body besides giving you a heady sugar rush, making you hungry again and even helping you pack on those kilos. Unfortunately, the list showing sources of simple carbohydrates is longer and features everything that is processed, refined, high in calories, has a long shelf-life and which has little or no nutritional value. Yes, that list does however include your breakfast bagel, grandma’s cupcakes, your post-lunch candy treat and your favourite white pasta.

It’s no wonder then that many lifestyle diseases such as hypoglycaemia and diabetes are on the rise and no longer just affects people who are in their prime. Whether you’re a die-hard Taekwondo class fan or a Pilates classes enthusiast, the right carbohydrates can enable your body to perform at its best. Keep in mind that almost anything edible usually does contain some carbohydrates and as long as it’s not a regular habit, enjoying an ice-cream or some cake as a one-off treat won’t do you any harm.

Like all things, the key is to keep it in balance.  Make sure each day you eat healthy proteins, some complex carbs, and plenty and fruit and veges (which are also carbohydrates and high in fibre).  For most people the biggest portion on the plate should be the vegetables, then protein or carbs.