Good Carbs v. Bad Carbs

02/05/2010, 03:02 by Joseph Pepe, Jr.


I was enjoying lunch with a friend a few weeks ago when he took a swig of his soda, read the nutrition facts and said in a puzzled manner “37 grams of carbohydrates. That seems like a lot. What exactly are carbs?”

“The enemy,” I quipped.

Now, this was merely a split-second, subconscious response that needs clarification. So by all means, I beg your pardon. Carbohydrates are not necessarily our adversary, and can in fact be our friend, but only if we understand the difference between “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” Let me explain.

Carbohydrates are essentially sugars or starches that provide energy for our bodies. Sounds good right? Not so fast! “Bad carbs” are high in glucose and, when consumed, cause a quick spike in our blood-sugar levels. This causes our pancreas to pump out insulin to deal with the excess blood sugar. The insulin then disperses the glucose and our blood sugar levels fall, causing us to be hungry again! I’m sure you’ve experienced this without even knowing it. Remember last week when you ripped through that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, like Sasquatch attacking Jack Link’s Beef Jerky? Or how about when you had the urge to eat that Rocky Road ice cream with a shovel? Excuse my hyperbole, but these cravings are a result of the quick rise and fall of our sugar levels. Bad carbohydrates are very high in sugar and white flour and include: candy, baked foods, ice cream, white pasta, breads, and sodas. These carbohydrates, while tasty, can often lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Good carbohydrates, however have a low glycemic index and are generally high in fiber, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These carbs raise our blood glucose levels in a much slower and sustained manner, avoiding the spike that leads to more cravings. These carbs, especially those high in fiber, are essential to our everyday diet. They supply our bodies with energy and help to lower our cholesterol. We want our bodies to take energy from carbs because if no carbs are consumed, our protein intake will be unnecessarily used for energy, diminishing their benefits for muscle growth. Good carbohydrates include: fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans, nuts, whole grain cereals and oat meal.

Now you may still crave that pint of ice cream, but it will be less intense and instead of grabbing the shovel, you’ll just take out a spoon. Consciously replace “bad carbs” with “good carbs,” and you’ll decrease your cravings and feel more energy. Oh, and those jeans will fit again!

About Our Celebrity Blogger. Joseph Pepe, Jr. serves as the Director of Project Development for Planet Fitness.  He oversees the Personal Training and Nutrition Department for 14 locations throughout CT.  He is also the Managing Director for the Lose It! Weight Loss System (  Joe received his B.A. in Economics from Wesleyan University. And since he’s our health and fitness guru, lets give him a plug as a athlete in his younger years as an All-NESCAC and Academic All-NESCAC Football Selection at Wesleyan. Go Cardinals!!

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