Many people with diabetes ask me about good carbs and bad carbs. They tend to want a black and white answer of which carbs they should and shouldn’t eat. Maybe you’ve been told by your doctor or another health professional to cut out carbs from your diet or to eat a very low carb diet. If you haven’t already read my post on why I don’t recommend this, you can find it here. But today, I would like to discuss how you can tell the difference between good and bad carbs and how you can make the best choices on your own.
Hint: There are no "Good" and "Bad" Carbs.
First, I would like to clarify that I don’t actually believe that there are “good” and “bad” carbs. Sure, some carbs are going to give you more nutrition than others, and some are going to affect your blood sugar more than others, but there are no foods that I would say are completely off limits when you have diabetes. The more nutrient-filled carbs should make up the majority of your carb intake, and the less beneficial carbs should be reserved as an occasional treat. So let’s get out our detective hats and dive into learning how to tell the difference.
More Fiber, Less Sugar
We could easily go down a rabbit hole here of discussing all of the characteristics that make up a “good carb.” But for the sake of simplicity, the following equation is a pretty good place to start when you are just beginning to think about your food choices. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t require any fancy math!) Here it is:
MORE Fiber + LESS Sugar = a better carb choice
Let’s pretend that you are at the store and you are comparing two different brands or different flavors of the same product. How do you determine which would be the better choice? Well, let’s take a look at our equation. Does one of the options contain more fiber than the other? Or maybe one of the choices has less sugar? If either of those is true, you have your answer. Choose the higher fiber or lower sugar product.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is healthy, as there are many other factors to consider, but it is a good start. Generally speaking, if you are moving toward “whole” foods instead of processed foods, you are naturally going to be following this equation. We will discuss more about that in later posts.
Put it Into Practice
So what now? What action step can you take to begin to choose “good” carbs? This week, pick one of your favorite carb foods and compare brands at the store. See if you can find an option that has more fiber or less sugar than the product that you normally buy. Sometimes simply choosing a different flavor can make all the difference! Post a comment below if you make any interesting discoveries! Until next time!