Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. These three provide us with the energy to go about with our daily activities. Carbohydrates, in particular, are an important energy source for us, as about 45-65% of our daily calories should come from it. Not all carbohydrates, however, are created equal. While all carbohydrates provide energy, some carbohydrates provide you with added nutrition and health benefits, while others mess up your metabolism in the process.

How Can You Tell Good from Bad Carbs? A nutritionist such as myself uses a number of tools to differentiate good from bad carbs. One of these tools is the Glycemic Index (GI). This tool indicates how fast certain food items raise your blood sugar. Essentially, food items with a low GI (slower in raising one’s blood sugar) are considered better than those with high GIs (faster in raising one’s blood sugar). This tool, however, is very limited in itself, as it does not consider the actual amount of carbohydrates consumed and the insulin spikes caused by certain food items.

Another way to differentiate good from bad carbs is through a food’s Glycemic Load (GL). This tool is simply an upgraded version of the GI. The GL basically measures the same thing as the GI while taking into consideration the amount of carbohydrates included in certain food items. Watermelons, for example, raise blood sugar quite quickly (high GI), but considering the amount of carbohydrates there actually is in one serving, watermelons are then considered to have a low GL. Just like GI, food items with high GL are considered bad, whereas low-GL foods are considered good.

Choosing the Right Carbs A good nutritionist can provide you with food lists that segregate food items based on GI and GL, or you can look for these online. If you find yourself preferring the “good carbs” selection of one list from the other, but remain concerned that one list is better than the other in some way, you must know that a number of studies have shown that low-GL diets essentially provide the same benefits as low-GI diets – basically, one isn’t particularly better than the other.

One good rule to keep in mind when choosing the right carbs is the nutrient content of each food item: carbs that bring along a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals with it are essentially good carbs (as opposed to refined and highly processed carbs that contain little to no micronutrients and fiber). This should have you reaching more for whole grains, green and colorful vegetables, and most fruits. When choosing your carbs, remember that you can never go wrong with variety! If you are having difficulties making better food choices, going to a nutritionist for some nutrition consulting can be a good first step.

How Good Carbs Help You Improve Your Health Choosing the right carbs improve your health in a number of ways. Good carbs can help keep you fuller for longer – this can, consequently lead to natural weight loss and better moods. Good carbs also keep your metabolism in check, as good carbs keep your insulin levels relatively steady, consequently lowering your risk of developing insulin resistance (a characteristic feature of Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, or lifestyle-associated diabetes). Lastly, good carbs keep you more energized for longer – and isn’t that energy what carbohydrates are essentially for?