Eating Complex

Eating Complex

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Good carbs versus bad carbs: Do you know the difference?

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, and that's a shame. Eat the right kind of carbs -- the low-glycemic index (GI) kind -- and you'll lose weight and lower both LDL and total cholesterol. Eat the wrong kind and . . . well, your heart suffers the consequences. GI index refers to how quickly starches break down and affect your blood sugar. Opt for low-GI lentils, beans, bran cereal, and high-fiber fruits and veggies to reach your lighter, heart-healthier goals.

Don't be swayed by low-carb diets. You need carbs to supply your body with energy, fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium, and other important nutrients. Completely eliminating carbs from your diet isn't healthy. Instead, go for low-GI carbs, the kind your body digests slowly, to help keep your blood sugar steady. You'll stay full longer, have more consistent energy, and feel better overall.

Researchers tested this out with four groups of obese men and women. Each group followed a different diet, but calorie intake was the same (women 1,400 calories a day, men 1,900). The diets varied in their percentage of protein, high-GI carbs, and low-GI carbs. After 12 weeks, all groups lost weight, but the people who got the most calories from low-GI carbs also lowered their LDL and total cholesterol levels. The people in the high protein/fewer carbs (mostly high-GI carbs) group experienced an increase in LDL and total cholesterol levels. Ouch!

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