Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?

Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?

The “Carbohydrates” subject is highly controversial and a hotly-debated topic these days. Some claim that carbs are the culprit of obesity and type 2 diabetes, while others feel fine, eating them a lot. So, are carbohydrates good or bad for you?

What are carbohydrates?

We have three types of macronutrients which are the main components of our food and essential for body functioning and physical activity. They are carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats). Each of them provides energy in the form of calories, e.g. carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories of energy per gram, lipids – 9 calories of energy per gram.

We need carbohydrates in the largest amounts. Intake of carbs for the majority of people should be between 45 and 65 percent of our daily caloric intake. I would even say up to 80 percent. However, it may vary, depending on your health condition or physical activity. The remaining calories should come from proteins and “good fats”.

There are two types of carbs: simple and complex; it depends on their chemical structure and how quickly they are digested and absorbed by your body.

Simple carbohydrates and its addiction

Processed food is refined or simple carbs. Perhaps you know that not all carbs are equal. The contrast between simple vs complex carbohydrates is that simple carbs are devoid of many essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Glucose and fructose are single monosaccharides and can be absorbed without digestion. Sucrose and lactose consist of two monosaccharides, which link together and must be digested to a monosaccharide. Because of their molecule’s short length and small size, simple carbs are easily digested and must be converted into glucose before they are uptaken into your bloodstream.

How Blood Sugar May Affect Your Body?

Simple carbs have a high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL). It means that glucose enters your bloodstream quickly, giving you a massive sugar hit and rapidly increasing blood sugar levels. Therefore, white bread or sugary drinks, for example, will induce a blood sugar spike and trigger the pancreas to produce insulin. Very high amounts of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia) for a long period of time, may lead to permanent damage of the blood vessels to vital organs and cause the risk of stroke, nerve and vision problems, kidney and heart disease, and impaired tissue repair. For this reason, insulin removes the excess sugar from your bloodstream ASAP. If you do not need it for energy right now, a small part of the glucose is stored in the form of glycogen*, but the major part of the sugar is converted into triglycerides and stored as subcutaneous and visceral fat for later use.

*Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the liver and in the muscles. If blood glucose levels in the blood decrease, then glycogen will provide you with energy for a period of time.

Sugar Craving Cycle

Maybe you noticed that after consuming bread or other refined food or beverages (e.g. cans of soda, cola or even a glass of fruit juice), you feel a quick rush of energy as well as improved mood due to the increased amount of dopamine which is produced by sugar. After insulin does its job, you will feel a slump which is caused by low blood sugar. Your brain starts to panic because low levels of glucose in the blood mean starvation for your brain and give you a feeling that you should eat something urgently. Unfortunately, at this moment, your body does not think about broccoli, your body demands quick-release, simple sugars that will elevate your blood sugar immediately. After consuming the next portion of the wrong type of carbs, it will send you again for another ride on the rollercoaster and it will again be followed by the infamous sugar crash. How many times you will experience the yo-yo effect on your blood sugar levels will depend just on you. Low blood sugar levels cause serious carbohydrate cravings such as bread, chocolate, biscuits, sugar, and cakes etc. During this time you may feel nervousness, fatigue, hunger, depression, dizziness, blurry vision, headaches, anxiety, muscle aches and even panic attacks. Is this picture familiar to you? If so, probably, you just have initiated the Sugar Craving Cycle.

Insulin and Disease

If your pancreas releases extra insulin on a regular basis, over time, you may develop insulin resistance, when your body is unable to use insulin properly, leading to type 2 diabetes. In diabetes mellitus through both hypo- and hyperglycemia, dysregulated glucose metabolism can damage the cells of your brain and the above symptoms can appear on a regular basis and become a part of your everyday life. Furthermore, it also may lead to cognitive dysfunction and even dementia.  Another threat to your health can be  “Type-3 diabetes”. This term researchers proposed for Alzheimer’s disease which results from resistance to insulin in the brain (1).

Hopefully, now you understand why white bread/simple carbs/sugar/ addiction can be so risky for your health. This is not even the complete list of diseases brought about by excess sugar.

complex carbsComplex carbohydrates


Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugar molecules, but there are thousands of monosaccharide (sugar) units that are bound together and form a long polysaccharide chain such as cellulose or starch.

During the digestive process, starch breaks down into glucose, just like simple carbs. However, the process is different and takes longer. Therefore, they are absorbed slowly and keep your blood sugar steady over an extended period of time, giving you satiety and lasting energy. In this case, your body is more interested in whole grains, broccoli, celery, and other vegetables giving you fullness with fewer calories.


Cellulose (insoluble fibre) cannot break down into its constituent glucose molecules as humans don’t have the required bacteria in their intestines to manufacture the cellulase enzyme necessary to digest this type of fiber. But in many ways, it benefits your digestive system. The main advantage is that cellulose adds bulk and water to your faeces increasing it in volume. It helps to shorten transit time through your intestine and prevent constipation and therefore hemorrhoids. In addition, fibre slows down the uptake of glucose and limits cholesterol absorption. It helps to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and decrease the chance of developing cancers, like colon cancer.

Side Effects of Cellulose

Some sensitive individuals, after consuming insoluble fibre, both from food or supplements, may experience abdominal discomfort including bloating, loose stools, and excessive gas. In some cases, it may even trigger allergic reactions. Those individuals should consume cellulose with caution. People with intestinal issues should talk to a health professional or a Nutritional Therapist as it may worsen symptoms.

Why are complex carbs important?

The body breaks down carbohydrates (simple and complex) into monosaccharides (glucose) and delivers them into the cells via the bloodstream. We all need carbs because they are a main source of fuel for our cells, brain function and physical activity. Digestible carbohydrates help create ATP in the mitochondria of your cells and are used to power cellular processes. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits all contain a high amount of carbs, but at the same time, they are great sources of minerals, fibre, vitamins and plant chemicals that are the foundation of a healthy diet. There are innumerable studies which show that high-fibre carbohydrates are vital for hormonal balance, for healthy growth of skin, nails, and hair, reproductive health and generally for normal whole body functioning. Choosing the right carbs can help you to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and can also keep your eyes healthy (2, 3)

So, we should differentiate between carbs and choose the right one to be healthy and happy. Eat a minimum 500g of vegetables and 2 fruits a day and you will see that to be healthy is not so difficult.

I wish you great health and happiness!
Yours ever Alla_Nutrition

To book a Skype consultation, please send me a message via “contact” page.

Relief Without Drugs

No spam guarantee

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *