Don't Go Blaming the Carbs!

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As a dietitian I often hear questions such as, "I shouldn't eat too many carbs right?" or "eating low carbs will help me lose weight?" I mean of course low carb intakes can help you lose weight, but it isn't necessarily the most ideal way or maintainable way to lose weight. Often times carbs are portrayed as the enemy and forbidden food. When people tell me about cravings, they are often carb related (I hear chips, cookies, muffins, crackers, etc.) However, there are many other carbs that don’t create cravings but actually support satiety and overall energy throughout the day.

Reasons why carbs are so important for our bodies:

Carbs provide our bodies with the quickest source of energy. Our bodies need carbohydrates for fuel, with glucose (a simple sugar) being our bodies preferred source of energy. Every cell in our body can use glucose for energy. Our cells thrive off carbs, so if you are active having carbs in your diet is especially important! In fact, elite athletes usually intake 60% of their total calories from carbohydrates.

When eating an adequate amount of carbs we spare protein, meaning our body doesn't need to breakdown protein for energy. Carbs also help with the breakdown of fat. With little or no carbs present our fatty acids turn into ketone bodies (which puts our body in a state of ketosis). Ketosis can be used for weight loss, but is not appropriate for long periods of time (this topic will be saved for a future blog).

Most importantly, our body actually needs approximately 130 grams per day just to fuel the brain. So, if you want to be functioning at your best throughout the day you will need some carbs! 

Why are carbs NOT to blame? At a population level we tend to over consume carbs. However, when keeping in mind quality and portions, carbs have amazing things to offer our bodies! 

1. Quality Matters

There are two classes of carbohydrates (simple and complex). Simple carbohydrates can also be known as refined carbs. Simple carbs are broken down quickly in our body and used for energy. You can find simple carbs in foods including, white bread, cakes, pastries, soft drinks etc. They usually contain very little fibre and create rapid rises in blood sugar because they are meant to provide us with a quick boost of energy. 

Complex carbohydrates are made from long chains of sugar molecules and are found in beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They typically contain great amounts of fibre and are digested more slowly within our bodies. This doesn't create such a drastic spike in our blood sugar and provides us with energy that can last until your next meal. 

Bottom line: we want to eat more complex carbs and less simple carbs.

2. Carbohydrates provide us with fibre

Fibre is made from glucose molecules and is found in many complex carbohydrates. There are two types of fibre (soluble and insoluble). Soluble helps absorb water in our large intestine and acts as a gelling agent, easing transit through our GI system. It is found in oatmeal, beans, barley, legumes, fruit etc. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to our stool and decreases transit time. It is found in whole grains, bran, fruit skins, seeds etc. Both these fibres work together to support digestion, excretion, and helps us feel satisfied post meal. Fibre helps us feel full and plays an important role in controlling weight. 

Bottom line: carbs provide us with fibre and keep our gut happy and healthy. It also helps prevent constipation, keeps us full longer (great for weight loss), and helps keep our blood sugars more stable! 

3. Many foods that are part of a healthy diet contain some carbs...

....including, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Our bodies need fruits, vegetables, and dairy for various other nutrients including calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and much more! 

Bottom line: continue to eat your fruit and veggies daily and at every meal!

If you take anything from this post, I want you to know that eating carbs is totally ok! In fact, carbs should be a part of your healthy diet. They provide your body with energy, they feed your brain, promote gut health, and help you feel full longer. Don't skip out on the carbs, instead watch your portions and choose those of better quality more often (hint: those complex carbs I mentioned above). 

Until next time,

Eat Right Feel Right - Angela XO