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Eating lots of carbohydrates seems like a major faux pas when it comes to being healthy, lean and fit. Understanding them and how they work in your body, however,  can help you when it comes to making the right decisions on a daily basis.

The diet industry has done a great job of condemning carbs and making big sales based on low carb products and gimmicks. The fact is though, that all carbs are not created equal. A lot of carbohydrates are full of nutrients and fiber, but there are some that spike your blood sugar levels and wreak havoc on your waistline and skin.

Here’s the scoop to help you make more informed decisions.

Carbs and your blood sugar

Having chronically high blood sugar levels is dangerous for a number of reasons. It causes weight gain, interferes with healthy hormone functioning, is a precursor for diabetes, and causes chronic inflammation. Certain carbs cause our blood sugar to rise much faster than others when they are high sugar and low in fiber and other nutrients.

The reason this has become such a big issue in recent years is because of how prevalent processed foods and sugars are in our diets. As convenience and packaged foods have become a big part of our daily lives, we’re constantly eating things that are spiking our blood sugar and asking our hormones to work in overdrive to manage and redistribute that sugar.

Because we’re waking up in the morning and ingesting foods all day that are packed with real and artificial sugars, we’re putting our bodies into a state of shock every time we eat, and never give our blood sugar a time to settle down. The symptoms are lack of energy, poor sleep, dark circles under the eyes, and inability to focus, to name a few. All of these tend to make us all reach for more sugar loaded stimulants to pull us out of our slump. The longer and more harmful effects of which are adrenal fatigue, diabetes, chronic pain, and autoimmune diseases.

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

Carbohydrates include a lot of foods – grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy – and they’re all processed by the body at different speeds than one another. For instance, white rice and sugar cause and sharp spike your blood sugar and call for the release of insulin to store and manage the sugar in your system. Whole foods like quinoa and vegetables raise your blood sugar slowly and give you a stable source of energy, without causing a major upset within your system. The trick is to eat balanced carbohydrates that give you a stable source of nutrients, so that you can have sustained focus and energy.

When we’re constantly eating things that spike and dip our blood sugar, our bodies are constantly moving in and out of state of shock, wreaking havoc on our entire systems. This is the main precursor for discomfort, sickness and disease. One popular trend has been to categorize fruits as unhealthy and put them in the same box as all refined sugars, suggesting they are not part of a healthy diet. However most fruits are packed with fiber and antioxidants, as opposed to the empty calories that white or artificial sugars are to the body.

Categorizing between healthy and dangerous carbs will help you make wise decisions easily. Things like faro, lentils, sweet potatoes, oats, beans and fruit are all packed with nutrients and have low glycemic loads, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar drastically. Resisting packaged foods and beverages loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients will boost your physical health and nurture a calm and balanced state of mind.

How to make carb-conscious choices

There are lots of things to consider when it comes to living and eating well. Keeping a stable blood sugar is an important priority for not only our physical but also mental health. Prioritizing whole foods rich in nutrients and low in sugar creates a strong foundation that enables you to enjoy what you eat without counting calories or monitoring carb intake at every meal.

Try and make the majority of everything you eat whole foods from the ground. Snack on fruits and nuts. If you have to eat something for convenience, opt for something with the lowest sugar content, without having been sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Also, eating meals with a protein, a carbohydrate and a fat will help you stay full and reduces cravings for sugar and starches.

Knowing that not all carbs are detrimental to your health will help you be proactive and relaxed when it comes to making healthy decisions around food. By eating whole foods packed in micro and macro nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, you’ll get everything you need to feel and look your best.

Photo by Patryk Sobczak

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