Nutrition

Why Refined Carbs Are Ruining Your Diet

Looking to cut out refined carbohydrates? Whether it’s the longer days providing better opportunities for more focus on training, or your summer wardrobe has got you second guessing the foods you eat – refined carbs are a common part of many a snack and meal, which you might want to replace.

We explore why refined carbs can be bad for you and how to swerve them to stay healthy.

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What Are Refined Carbs?

Let’s begin by addressing the fact that not all carbs are the same. Carbohydrates are your body’s energy resources when you need to dig deep on a busy day or gruelling gym session.

However, refined grains and simple sugars shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities (unless it’s to refuel your body after a hard workout). Refined grains are the likes of white flour used in things like white bread and pasta. Refined carbs are also known as simple carbs or processed carbs. Because they’ve been stripped of their nutritional value and vitamins, they’re considered ‘empty carbs.’ Your body also digests them quickly, meaning that your blood sugar and insulin levels can spike, causing subsequent hunger and increased risk of insulin resistance (think type 2 diabetes).

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Why Are Refined Carbs Bad for Me?

Refined carbohydrates are also linked to heart disease, colon cancer and obesity. If you’re concerned about being overweight, there’s a good chance refined carbs are one of the contributing factors.

What all of this means is that when you consume refined carbphydrates, it’s essentially the same as fuelling your car with the wrong type of petrol. That means that you won’t get far in your day-to-day toing and froing, as well as stress management, and especially any health and fitness goals.

Cutting refined carbs isn’t exactly a matter of sticking to some intense, difficult diet or making too many adjustments to your nutrition. It’s firstly about understanding that you need the right fuel. Refined carbs may fill the hole if you’re feeling peckish, but the same could be done with similar food sources that are also good for you.

In fact, the blood-sugar spike your body gets from eating refined carbs doesn’t last as long as healthier options, which will keep you feeling full for longer. Therefore there’s a good chance you’ll eat more refined carbs and graze more between meals.

How Can I Cut Down on Refined Carbohydrates?

Let’s say it again: not all carbs are bad, and you need them in your diet for energy, as well as particular vitamins and minerals. Your next step is to identify refined carbs so you can know when to avoid them and what to replace them with. The main dietary sources of refined carbs are processed foods, white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars.

Many carb-rich foods are good for you, including:

✓ Fresh/frozen meat, poultry, and seafood

✓ Eggs

✓ Fresh or frozen unsweetened fruits

✓ All vegetables

✓ Whole grains (whole grain rice, oats, barley, quinoa, corn, etc)

✓ Nuts and seeds of all types

✓ Unsweetened nut butter

✓ Unsweetened coconut

Next time you’re filling your shopping trolley, check for an alternative to reduced carbs. A good example is a bread, which you can cut altogether or buy in a whole grain form. The bran and germ are the most nutritious parts of whole grains because they contain high amounts of many nutrients, such as fibre, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium.

To maintain your energy levels without cutting carbs altogether choose unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, root vegetables and whole grains, such as oats and barley. If cutting refined carbs is all about weight loss, then a balanced diet that cuts processed foods is a good place to start but is most effective when combined with cardio training three times a week and regular resistance training.

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Charlotte Campbell

Charlotte Campbell

Contributor

Charlotte is a fitness and nutrition writer and blogger based in Manchester. Her articles have been featured in Cosmopolitan and the London Evening Standard.


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