Do Certain Carbs Curb Your Appetite?


Many of us have heard that some carbs are “good” and others “bad.”  In this article, I’m going to reveal the difference between “good” carbs and “bad” carbs and also discuss how they may or may not affect your appetite.

“Good” vs. “Bad” Carbs

Dave_TrainerThe carb classification of “good” vs. “bad” mainly depends on how a carb affects your blood sugar levels.  For example, if a carb causes a rapid spike in your blood sugar, it’s often labeled a “bad” carb.  But, if a carb causes a slower release of sugar into the blood, it’s typically referred to as a “good” carb.

Generally speaking, “good” carbs (ie. fruits and vegetables) tend to elicit a slower and more subtle elevation in blood sugar, which means the insulin level rises more slowly as well.  With a slower rise in insulin, the body cannot store fat as easily.

Another way of saying it is: “good” carbs help keep blood sugar stable, which keeps insulin levels stable, which supports a stable body weight, which is helpful for managing weight, energy levels, and preventing and coping with diabetes.

It would make sense than that “bad” carbs affect the body opposite of “good” carbs. “Bad” carbs are associated with cholesterol concerns, inflammation in the body, and weight gain because they cause the body to release insulin quickly.  The more often the body gets spikes of insulin, the more likely it is to store fat.  Additionally, certain carbs are labeled “bad” (ie. candy and soda) because they are associated with damage to the arterial walls of blood vessels, which is harmful to heart health and circulation.

While most dietitians and nutritionists emphasize “good” carbs for weight loss and overall health, the bigger question that is not often talked about is, do certain carbs actually curb your appetite?  The research may surprise you.

“Good” and “Bad” Carbs on Different Ends of the Same Spectrum

Before I get into the appetite aspect, I’d like readers to consider that when it comes to “good” carbs and “bad” carbs, the key term that connects them is glycemic index.  Think of the glycemic index as a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum, you have high glycemic index foods, which is where the “bad” carbs hang out.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have the low glycemic index foods, which is where the “good” carbs reside.  And somewhere in between, you’ll find carbs with a moderate glycemic index.

Most nutritionists recommend lower glycemic index carbs for health, but rarely will they discuss the fact that whether you eat a “good” carb or a “bad” carb, it is not likely that you’ll experience a change in your appetite.  In other words, whether you eat a “good” carb or “bad” carb, chances are pretty good that neither one of them will hold off hunger pangs.

Research Findings on Carbs and Appetite

Researchers in the Netherlands reported that the glycemic index may not affect appetite as previously thought.  Nutrition researcher Harry Peters, PhD, tested the theory that low-glycemic index carbohydrates that digest more slowly and have more gradual effects on insulin and glucose (sugar) levels might combat hunger better than high-GI foods.  As an example, whole grains might be a better option for weight loss than white bread or sugary foods – not only because of calories but because they curb appetite more (in theory).  Results from previous studies of this “glycemic response” and appetite have not been consistent.

In a Netherlands study of 35 volunteers, the research team compared post-meal appetite and “fullness” with carbohydrates differing only in their glycemic index.

The study showed that only “minimal” effects of combating hunger were associated with the slower to digest low-glycemic carbs. (“good carbs”)

What Does This Mean for You on a Day to Day Basis? 

Well, when you look at the big picture of this study and those related to glycemic index, you’ll find that about 50% of people trying to lose weight benefit with the low glycemic index approach.  While the approach does have merit, the missing piece worthy exploring further is what foods actually cause a feeling of sustained fullness.  From this study, we can see that the sustainability of feeling full neither occurs with “good” nor “bad” carbs.

So What Then, Causes us to Feel Full?

The partially digested byproducts of fat elicit feelings of fullness.  That’s why I recommend healthy fats as snacks to clients and owners of Your Eating Solution©.   Snacks such as hummus, almonds, cashews, and peanut butter help the body feel full for a longer period of time.  While some people will argue that these foods are higher in fat, what they tend to overlook is the value these foods have on appetite.

Y.E.S. is Your Eating Solution

With small portions of healthy fat combined with a diet of low-glycemic carbs, my clients have experienced healthy weight management without feeling the “hunger” of dieting.  Plus, this formula helps to motivate and sustain a shift to a “good” carb diet which then promotes the overall sense of feeling healthy.


Reference: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 


About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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