Don't Give Carbs a Bad Rap
“Carbs.” Just the word causes some people to cringe. Carbohydrates often get a bad rap.
Many individuals even follow some form of low-carb diet. It is true that not all carbohydrates are created equally, but it doesn’t make them all “bad.” In fact, within a healthy diet, none are truly “bad.” Many people believe that carbohydrates are the source of weight gain, which can be true. In fact, any food can contribute to weight gain if it is more than what our bodies need at that time.
Carbohydrates are fruits, starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, potatoes), milk and yogurt, starches (bread, pasta, rice, etc.), and sugary sweets and beverages. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates or those that are minimally processed such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.
These carbohydrate sources provide the most vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients. The highly processed carbohydrates such as white bread, sweets, sodas or other packaged or refined foods have higher amounts of sugar, saturated fat and calories and are typically very low in fiber and nutrients.
Carbohydrates are actually pretty important. They provide our bodies with glucose, the No. 1 source of energy in our body. They also play a role in a healthy metabolism by allowing the body to:
- use protein for its primary purposes (rather than for energy if “low-carbing”)
- aid in fat metabolism
- provide structure for important compounds like DNA
Carbohydrates also provide fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
Fiber is essential for digestion and plays a role in weight loss by helping you feel fuller for a longer period of time compared to foods lower in fiber. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol, which promotes overall heart health.
Just like a car doesn’t run as well when it is low on gas, your body doesn’t run as well without carbohydrates. Without sufficient fuel the body lacks energy, which could lead to dizziness, mental fog and even physical weakness. When carbohydrate intake is low or stores are insufficient, the body uses protein for fuel. This can be problematic since protein is vital for muscle and tissue repair. It also puts stress on the kidneys and can cause digestive issues such as constipation.
In addition, when we cut carbohydrates or any food group, we miss out on essential vitamins and nutrients needed to maintain good health. Rather than cutting them out altogether, incorporate complex carbohydrates such as old-fashioned oats, quinoa, beans and 100% whole wheat bread, and focus on healthier carbohydrates such as those from starchy vegetables, fruit and dairy.
A diet that cuts out foods or food groups without reducing overall caloric intake, will not result in long-term weight loss. A good rule of thumb when considering a diet modification is to be skeptical with any promise of extreme results or eliminating entire food groups.
Bottom line, moderation is the key, as with any food or food group—carbs especially.
As with any food or food group, moderation is key.