OKAY, so I think you trust me just a tad by now. Or well, I hope so, AT LEAST. So if you do, PLEASE TRUST ME WHEN I TELL YOU THAT CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY. I’ll admit it, I thought they were too at some point in time, but after lots of research, reading, dietitian appointments & experience, I’ve come to learn that THE “GOOD” CARBS are ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU. It’s not just a myth. They pack tons of health benefits & this is why you should not only TRY to incorporate them into your diet but you MUST!
First things first, what are carbohydrates? In a nutshell, they are macromolecules composed of sugar molecules & are one of the three macronutrients, alongside with protein & fat. They are a major source of energy & our bodies actually prefer to metabolize carbs for energy over fat.
Over the years, a lot of trendy diets have popped up based on the principle that high-protein & low-carb diets are the KEY to weight loss. However, IMO, all of these diets are fads. While they may (or may not) produce short-term gratification & results, they do not encourage the development of a healthy balanced diet & ultimately, a healthy lifestyle.
They falsely affirm this idea that completely (or almost completely) eliminating & depriving our bodies of one of the most important macronutrients necessary for daily functioning is okay, albeit, encouraged simply because it may lead to short-term weight loss. THIS IS FALSE. While some of us may need to lose or gain weight for medical & very valid reasons, our end-with-all should not be to lose weight through deprivation – It should be to develop a healthy relationship with food & learning how to eat & live a balanced lifestyle.
DIET SHOULD NO LONGER BE IN YOUR VOCABULARIES, my loves. BE CONSISTENT. AIM FOR LIFESTYLE CHANGE. & Everything else will come with it.
All this to say: You don’t have to completely banish carbs, or any macronutrient, for that matter, in order to lose weight in a healthy manner. It really all boils down to choosing the RIGHT FOODS & finding the RIGHT BALANCE.
NOW, we’ll talk about why you should never eliminate lean protein & healthy fats from your diet at another time, BUT RIGHT NOW: Let’s talk about why you should NOT eliminate carbs!
ALL CARBS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.
Kay, so, let me break this down for y’all.
There are two types of carbs:
1. REFINED CARBS:
- Found in sweets, cookies, cakes, sugar & white foods, basically, white bread, pasta, flour & rice.
- These carbs are processed & composed of simple sugars, which are broken down, digested & absorbed very quickly by the body.
- They contain little to no fibre.
- As a result, these types of carbs can potentially lead to blood sugar imbalances, which leads to sugar cravings, energy slumps & weight gain.
- They are basically empty calories. They give you some temporary energy but they do not provide much else in terms of nutrition.
- As such, consumption of these foods should be limited & done in moderation!
BUT WAIT, then we’ve got the good kind of carbs!
2. COMPLEX CARBS:
- Found in whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, fruits, oats, wild rice & non-starchy vegetables.
- These carbs contain more nutrients than simple carbs, are higher in fibre & are digested and absorbed by the body more slowly.
- As a result, they’re a great source of continuous & sustained energy.
- This also makes them more filling, good for weight control & helps keep the blood sugar levels balanced!
- As such, consumption of these foods is ENCOURAGED! (Yes, even if they are carbs!).
SO, YES, stay away from the processed carbs & refined sugars (as much as you can) or eat them in moderation & sparingly.
BUT, DO NOT ELIMINATE ALL CARBS. STICK TO WHOLE FOODS. REAL FOOD. REAL INGREDIENTS.
CARBS SUPPORT A HAPPY TUMMY (OR GUT!)
As you all know, fibre is super important for digestion. It keeps things moving, to put it lightly & also provides a food source for the good bacteria in our gut. These good bacteria ensure that we properly absorb nutrients from our food, support our body’s ability to detoxify, regulate appetite, boost immunity and can even affect our mood.
In fact, the polyphenols found in certain carb based plant foods, such as berries, flaxseed & olives support these good bacteria even more.
CARBS CAN HELP WITH SLEEP & REGULATE MOOD!
If you have trouble sleeping, a low-carb diet could make it worse. Biologically, carbs are required for the uptake of tryptophan to the brain. This is an amino-acid found in nuts, seeds, yogurt, turkey & is converted in the brain to the sleep-inducing substances serotonin & melatonin.
P.S. Serotonin is also the feel good chemical in our brain & is what contributes to overall feelings of happiness and satisfaction. A GOOD INTAKE OF COMPLEX CARBS IS THEREFORE ALSO IMPORTANT FOR REGULATING MOOD.
CARBS ARE BRAIN-HEALTHY!
Our brains rely on carbs, broken down into glucose, for fuel. If our brain does not get enough glucose due to to carbohydrate restriction, our ability to concentrate, focus make decisions clearly & recall information can be affected.
CARBS & METABOLISM!
In order to function properly & maintain an appropriate metabolism, our body produces a hormone called T3. It is the most active thyroid hormone & is important for blood glucose management & proper metabolic activity.
OUR BODIES NEED CARBS. Restricting carbohydrate consumption therefore will not work long-term. Eventually, our bodies will crave the carbs & depriving yourself of this major food group is not a good weight-loss plan because it can have an effect on metabolism, as well.
Like with all foods, too much restriction can eventually lead to binging & binging can ultimately lead to weight gain. This is why you should aim to have a healthy & reasonable balance of carbs, protein and fat in every meal.
ALSO, if you restrict your calories or carb intake to much, T3 hormone levels drop. And, especially if you are an active individual, you need adequate energy & carb intake for a healthy thyroid. An unhealthy thyroid ultimately leads to a sluggish metabolism. AND WHO REALLY WANTS THAT, RIGHT?
CARBS CAN HELP FIGHT OFF DISEASE!
The right mix of healthy carbs can help control blood sugar, avoid diabetes, and also act as a vehicle for many of nature’s diseases fighters, like phytochemicals. Without carbs, you open the door to developing life-threatening disease, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation & digestive problems.
RESTRICTING CARBS CAN LEAD TO LOWER LEVELS OF MUSCLE/STRENGTH-BUILDING HORMONES!
Building muscle requires you to eat a substantial amount of carbs. The main reason our bodies need carbs before working out is to have an adequate amount of energy for exercise or activity, in general.
However, the most critical time is after training because our muscles’ glycogen stores are depleted & replacing them puts our body into an anabolic state. This ensures that all the hard work paid off & that the damaged tissues can recover.
The moral of this story is that it doesn’t make sense to overly restrict any macronutrient or to oversimplify or generalize by classifying ALL CARBS as bad. Most of us will look, feel, and perform our best when we balance a reasonable amount of lean protein, quality carbs, and healthy fats.
And nobody’s individual carb requirements are exactly the same. They depend largely on:
- Goals (fat loss, muscle toning or gain, weight maintenance)
- Genetics (different body types, medical condition, other biological factors)
- Carb source (refined vs. minimally processed or not processed at all);
- Activity level (sedentary, very active, weight-training, athletic etc.);