Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Carbohydrates. Are they your friend or foe?
Between the latest magazine headline, social media ad or late night infomercial it's so confusing...should we embrace or avoid carbs? Carbohydrates are one of the 3 macronutrients we need to perform and function healthfully (the other 2 being protein and healthy fats), unfortunately there are 2 culprits in the carbohydrate category that have given the entire food group a bad wrap - added sugars and white processed flours. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains are all carbs and an important part of a healthy and well balanced diet. Sadly with an increase in processed foods, pre-packaged "convenience" meals and confusing dietary trends, many Americans are consuming less of the good carbs and more of the bad.
So how can you navigate the carbohydrate dilemma, ensure you are meeting your body's nutritional needs, support healthy body function and empower a healthy waistline? By understanding the good and the bad.
Why are Carbohydrates important?
Carbohydrates are our body's main source of energy. The natural sugars and starches found in carbohydrates are broken down by the body and turned into glucose (blood sugar) so they can be used as energy. The fiber found in carbohydrates is not broken down by the body, instead it helps you feel full, (an important component of maintaining a healthy weight), and supports healthy body function. Insoluble fiber adds bulk, helping you stay regular, while soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose control. Carbohydrates give us the energy to walk, talk, run, hike, climb, crawl, think, dance, pick things up and put them down and much, much more! They support a healthy waistline (when used appropriately), supply essential vitamins and minerals (hello fruits and veggies!) and empower healthy body function.
What is the difference between a good and bad carb?
In the nutrition world carbohydrates are often referred to as "complex" or "simple," otherwise known as good or bad carbs. Complex carbohydrates are those that are unprocessed, contain fiber and are naturally found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Simple or "bad" carbs are typically found in processed foods such as crackers, chips, candies, sweetened beverages, white pasta and breads. The body doesn't recognize these carbs as a nutrient it needs, they cause blood sugar to spike, make your insulin work overtime and are often stored as fat. So limiting your consumption of these types of carbs is key to maintaining overall health and wellness. When we severely restrict intakes of complex (aka good) carbs it can lead to a condition called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body has to use fat for energy because it does not have enough carbohydrates from food to support the body's energy needs. While you may think, "Great I will just burn all the fat!" It is not that simple. Each macronutrient has it's own job (protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates), and the body needs each of these to support and maintain healthy body function. When one nutrient is severely lacking it forces the other nutrients to try and take on it's role, which strains the body and it's abilities.
How many carbohydrates do you need?
That depends on several factors; age, activity level, current weight and/or weight loss goals, and current health state. In general, the recommended daily amount of carbohydrates is 45-65% of total daily caloric intakes (based on a 2,000 calorie diet), this equates to approximately 900-1300 calories a day, or 225-325g! Again, these should be the complex carbs found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains.
Examples of Complex (a.k.a. good) Carbs
Variety of Fruits
Variety of Vegetables
Dark Leafy Greens
Whole Wheat Products
Nuts & Seeds
Unsweetened Greek Yogurt
Examples of Simple (a.k.a bad) Carbs
Candy, Candy Bars and other Sugar Coated Foods
Sweetened Carbonated Beverages
Fruit Leather and Fruit Flavored Snacks
Bottom line - carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet! Your body needs carbs to function healthfully and provide energy for daily tasks. Most complex carbs also offer a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. So don't cut out the carbs, just bring it back to healthy basics and enjoy a bowl of fruit, snack on some veggies, nosh on some nuts, enjoy a hearty quinoa salad or a whole grain slice of bread, those carbs are on your side...the healthy side!
Between the latest magazine headline, social media ad, or late night infomercial understanding carbs can be so confusing...
And that is why I've created this guide: Energize With The Fab 5.
Inside my guide you will discover…
My top 5 carb recommendations (spoiler alert: some of them might surprise you!)
Why these particular carbs can be such a powerful asset in your healthy living goals
Simple ways to enjoy them so you can reap all the amazing benefits starting today!