Why You Should Never Eat Processed Carbs By Themselves

You've probably heard many times that if you are trying to lose weight, you should stay away from carbs. After all, many famous diets, from keto to the Atkins diet, advise eating foods that are low in carbs, but high in protein and healthy fats, to maintain your ideal weight. But why is it that carbs are so often demonized in the diet world?

Carbs are not inherently healthy or unhealthy. In fact, a carbohydrate is simply a macronutrient that delivers energy to your body via glucose, a type of simple sugar, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The body needs carbohydrates to survive, and many healthy foods — including fruits and vegetables, starches like beans and legumes, and whole grains — contain carbohydrates. Therefore, carbs are an essential part of a healthy diet. The confusion around carbs tends to come in, however, because there are two different types: complex and simple. While complex carbohydrates tend to be found in healthy foods that are also full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, simple carbohydrates come from processed (and generally less nutritious) foods like chips, candy, and soda, according to Healthline.

Processed carbs can cause a spike in the body's blood sugar

So, simple, processed carbohydrates give all carbs a bad rap. Overly processed foods often contain high amounts of sugar and fat, while containing very little nutrition. Eating a diet high in processed food has been linked to negative health outcomes, like high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, per a study published in the National Library of Medicine. The simple, refined carbohydrates that are found in processed foods often have most of their nutritional benefits, such as fiber and vitamins, "stripped" away, leaving behind little else but simple sugar that can cause the body's blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, per Healthline.

Processed carbohydrates are found in many common foods, from breakfast cereals and white bread to sweets and candy. Because processed ingredients can lead to health issues, nutritionists recommend that people consume them sparingly. However, if one does eat processed carbs, it is best to consume them along with other, more nutrient-rich foods.

Pairing processed carbs with fat and protein can slow digestion

"Simple sugars...often don't come with a package of nutrients," Amy Goodson, a Texas-based registered dietitian and consultant, explained to Mashed. They also have a high glycemic index, which means they are digested by the body very quickly, leading to sudden spikes in blood sugar (via Healthline). However, if they are eaten along with other foods that take the body longer to digest, their impact on blood sugar is lessened.

"When a carbohydrate of any kind is consumed with protein or fat, the blood sugar spike is blunted," Goodson explained. "This is because protein and fat slow down digestion, so they cause blood sugar to increase at a slower rate than when carbohydrates are consumed by themselves. So, eating a simple carbohydrate with a protein is better from eating a simple carbohydrate by itself from a blood sugar perspective." So if you want to enjoy your sugary breakfast cereal in the healthiest way possible, it might be good to have it with a side of eggs and avocado to keep your blood sugar steady.