You may have heard that eating a low carb diet can help with weight loss. And while there is some truth to that, it’s easy to get caught up in the extremes and forego carbs altogether.
Carbohydrates are actually necessary for good health, but it’s important to get enough of the right kind.
Are you getting enough carbs? Let’s talk about it.
Why do Carbs Get the Bad Rap?
Carbohydrates tend to send mixed signals to the crowd. Some try to avoid them because they’ve heard eating carbs causes weight gain, yet others can scarf down a plate of pasta and not be affected at all.
There’s a big misconception that all carbs are bad, but is that true? Not in the least. In fact, the right kind of carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet.
The best way to look at it is seeing carbohydrates through the glycemic index lens, a way to classify foods that can raise your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to raise your blood sugars much higher than foods with a low glycemic index (1).
Examples of foods that have a high glycemic index are:
- White bread
- Cakes and cookies
- White rice
- Chips and crackers
- Potatoes and fries
In contrast, some foods that are labeled as low glycemic include:
- Vegetables like peppers, broccoli, eggplant, tomatoes and lettuce
- Legumes like chickpeas and dried beans
- Dairy like whole milk or unflavored yogurt
- Nuts like cashews and pistachios
As mentioned earlier, carbs aren’t the bad guys – at least, the complex ones aren’t. Your body needs carbs in order to function properly.
Carbohydrates provide three major benefits to your health:
- Provides Energy: this is probably the biggest one. You need to be able to get around, and carbs help you do this. Glucose is your body’s main source of carbohydrate energy, fueling every part of your body (2).
- Helps Control Weight: By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you’re doing your body a favor by keeping your weight in check. These types of foods contain fiber that digests slower, keeping you feeling full and lowering the number of extra calories you take in (3).
- Fights Disease: A meta-analysis of several studies confirm diets that include both whole grains and dietary fibers can help reduce your risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (4). Regular intake of fiber can also protect you against diabetes and obesity.
Types of Carbohydrates
Three main types of carbs your body uses for energy:
Sugars: This is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Think of them as single sugar units. Different types include fructose, sucrose, and lactose. These sugars occur naturally in foods like fruits, milk products, and many processed foods (8).
Starches: A more complex carbohydrate, starches are made from long, branching chains of simple sugars. These types of carbs can be found in foods such as grains, cooked dry beans, peas, and vegetables (7).
Fiber: The most complex of all carbohydrates, fiber is something you need but can’t actually digest. Fiber passes through and helps your body utilize the rest of the sugars more efficiently (6). Fiber is also essential for general gut health and the gut microbiome.
Where can you find natural sources of carbohydrates? Some foods include:
How many carbs do you need?
If you want to function at your best, how much of your daily calorie intake goes towards quality carbohydrates? Well, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 45-65% of your daily calories should come from quality carbohydrate sources (5).
That means if you usually consume 2,000 calories per day, between 900-1,300 calories should be carbohydrates.
If you’re someone who has avoided all carbohydrates because you thought they were bad, relax. You can safely enjoy carbohydrates, and you should!
Just remember, quality is key. Instead of eating processed, junk foods that lack nutrition, opt for complex carbohydrates that are full of fiber. You’ll find yourself feeling more energized, happier, and maybe even a few pounds lighter.
Does someone come to mind that might benefit from this information? Be sure to share with friends, family, and on your social network!
References & Disclaimer
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author