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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why are processed carbs (white bread, white pasta, etc) considered "bad" carbs?

    Related Topic
    What is it about processed carbs that make them “bad” for the body? Is it always best to substitute these for whole grains?
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    Nicole Senior

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I'm an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, consultant, author, speaker and food and health enthusiast. I love talking and writing about food and health.(please note, … View Profile

    Just like we now talk about good fats and bad fats, we also talk about good carbs and bad carbs because carbs are not as innocuous as we used to think (especially if you're already overweight, inactive and have high cholesterol and blood sugar levels). Good carbs are those that are minimally processed, nutrient rich and lower glycemic index (GI), wholegrain and high-fibre foods: examples include dense grainy bread, oats, barley, wholemeal pasta and high fibre, low GI breakfast cereals. “Bad” carbs are nutrient-poor, highly processed or high GI carbs: examples include white rice, soft drinks and lollies. We now know there are negative health effects from eating too many “bad” carbs. For example, high GI carbs are now considered as bad for your heart as saturated fat. A low-fibre diet is also risky for your digestive health and increases the risk of weight gain. A high GI diet is also associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and may contribute to weight gain. Quality counts when it comes to carbs so be choosy (and of course don't overdo the portion size).

  • 1

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    I am Accredited Practising Dietitian with a passion for helping people who suffer from food intolerance. I have 25 years of experience in this area … View Profile

    My professor (Boden Professor of Nutrition at the University of Sydney) used to say ‘There are no bad foods, only bad diets’.  All foods are useful in the right circumstances, even refined or highly processed carbohydrates.  

    For example, if you are underweight, in need of a high energy food and have chronic diarrhoea, refined carbohydrates can provide easily absorbed kilojoules which do not aggravate diarrhoea.  However, if you are overweight and constipated eating whole grain carbohydrate foods provide satiety, reduce appetite and increase bowel motions.

    I agree with my professor that good and bad and not the right words for foods, but they could well be applied to diets.

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