The Importance of Carbohydrates (and why you need to be eating them!)
Carbohydrates. Are they good or bad?
Or somewhere in between?
Keto, South Beach, Atkins, Dukan…plenty of fad diets recommend cutting back on this important macronutrient.
The concept that carbs negatively impact our weight has left people confused.
Many of my online coaching clients have questions about carbohydrates, so I decided to set the record straight…
This is what I will cover in order to persuade you that you should be eating carbohydrates:
Let’s hop in!
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbs are the body’s main source of energy!
In addition to being one of the three essential macronutrients (alongside protein and fat), carbohydrate is the nutritional category for sugars.
These sugars can come in many forms, but can be further classified into three main types:
Simple Vs. Complex Carbohydrates
Sometimes referred to as simple carbohydrates, monosaccharides and disaccharides are sugar molecules or pairs of sugar molecules.
They are found in fruits and plants (as well as processed foods and sugary drinks) and are used by the body to provide energy.
Polysaccharides are long chains made of 3 or more sugar molecules and are also known as complex carbohydrates.
“Complex carbohydrates are larger molecules than simple carbohydrates. This means it takes our body longer to digest and absorb them”Molly Cleary, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian in New York City.
Many health and nutrition experts agree that both simple and complex carbohydrates are beneficial for our health, especially when they are consumed as part of a balanced, plant-based diet.
Nevertheless, it is recommended to consume more complex than simple carbs, due to the slow-release energy, which maintains sustainable blood glucose levels.
Are Carbs Bad for Weight Loss?
It is widely believed that carbohydrates contribute to weight gain. But…
Weight gain is caused by eating an excess in overall calories.
Since calories can come from any food source, individuals can also gain weight from eating foods low in carbohydrates and high in fat or protein instead.
Carbohydrates are actually conducive to healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Indeed, complex carbohydrates, such as starch and fiber, work by slowing down digestion, providing slow-release energy, and making you feel fuller for longer!
Quick, pass me a banana!
What About the Keto Diet?
Low-carb diets, such as keto, paleo, and Atkins, can lead to rapid weight loss.
By restricting the intake of your body’s preferred fuel (glucose from carbohydrates), your body enters ketosis. This starved state leads to your body burning fat for fuel, which helps individuals lose weight.
However, science has demonstrated that this is neither healthy nor sustainable.
In fact, this mammoth global study found that the recommended carbohydrate intake for optimal health and fitness was 50-55%!
Moreover, restricting food groups from your diet can prevent you from getting other incredibly important nutrients.
That’s because high-carb foods, such as oats, bananas, and beans contain key nutrients that you are unlikely to consume elsewhere.
For example, magnesium, calcium, and potassium!
The same study found that eating plant-derived protein lowered the risk of mortality compared to those that favored animal-derived protein.
Should I be Eating Carbs?
Yes! It’s time to dispel the myth that carbs are the bad guys!
Carbohydrates are essential for our health and fitness and you should be eating them.
As mentioned earlier, carbs are the body’s main source of energy, without which our body would break down essential reserves of protein and fat.
What’s more, countless scientific studies have demonstrated that the fiber contained in wholegrain starchy carbohydrates is vital for our gut health.
Found in fresh vegetables and fruits, wholegrain foods, and pulses, fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut, slows down the digestive system, and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Even simple carbohydrates provide your body with much-needed energy, as long as you eat them in moderation.
How do I Eat Carbohydrates as Part of a Healthy Balanced Diet?
According to Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:
“It’s the type and quantity of the carbs you eat – not carbohydrates themselves – that cause weight gain”
Therefore, rather than eating refined and processed foods, such as white bread, pasta, and sugary snacks, we should consume foods that contain more complex carbs.
For example, whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
With these foods, you will be consuming more fiber, which will be digested slowly and increase blood glucose levels at a more sustainable rate.