Yes, ladies. You can eat carbs—just as long as they are the right kind of carbs.
According to Frank B Hu, M.D., Ph.D. of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the myth saying that all carbs are off-limits is simply "an oversimplification of dietary recommendations that created a fat phobia," Dr. Hu told The New York Times. While there are certain carbs to avoid, experts are now realizing that extreme efforts by health professionals to control the obesity epidemic may have led dieters astray.
Here's what you need to know, says Dr. Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology, when distinguishing "between healthy fats and bad fats, healthy carbs and bad carbs."
Simple vs. Complex Carbs
Here's the deal: Sugars are simple carbohydrates and starches are complex carbohydrates. The difference is in how quickly the body processes them into glucose. While sugars digest rapidly, therefore, quickly raise blood sugar, starchy carbohydrates take longer for the body to process.
This is important to consider when choosing which carbs you consume on a regular basis. For example, Dr. Hu recommends avoiding refined carbohydrates; think: white bread and white rice. These highly processed carbs are starchy and without dietary fiber, meaning they rapidly cause blood sugar to spike. According to the Times article, "when [refined carbs] are consumed in excess of the body’s need for immediate and stored energy, refined carbs and sugars can result in insulin resistance and contribute to fatty liver disease."
Mind the Glycemic Index
Unfortunately for potato-lovers, the nation's favorite vegetable also acts like a refined carbohydrate because they are high on the glycemic index, meaning they also cause blood sugar to soar. That's right people, put down the French fries. (Insert crying emoji.)
Foods to avoid that are high on the glycemic index include: baked Russet potatoes, white baguette, cornflakes, white rice, pretzels, instant oatmeal, rice cakes, Gatorade, and French fries. On the other hand, foods that are OK for frequent consumption, according to the glycemic index, include: oatmeal, pasta, apples, carrots, skim milk, black beans, lentils, prunes, barley, chickpeas, grapefruit, peanuts, and hummus.
Say "No" to Saturated Fat, "Yes" to Olive Oil
Saturated fat, which is found in fatty animal foods, like meat and dairy products, is not healthy. Olive oil, however, is an important beneficiary for cardiovascular health and controlled body weight. This is because it's monounsaturated, which means that while it does have as many calories as some animal products, it does not clog blood vessels with fatty deposits.
So, there you have it. Carbs can be consumed as long as you keep their place on the glycemic index in mind. For individuals trying to keep their bodyweight under control, or who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, excess consumption of high-glycemic foods is a total no-no. Do yourself a favor and take a tip from these experts for the sake of your overall health and happiness.