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 three macronutrients we need to perform, feel and function our best. Unfortunately for the past few years carbs have gotten a bad wrap and many people mistakenly think in order to live healthier and achieve weight loss, you've got to start by cutting carbs. And it's. not true.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains are all CARBS and an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Sadly with an increase in processed foods, pre-packaged "convenience" meals and confusing dietary trends, most people are consuming less of the healthy carbs and more of the unhealthy.
How do you know what carbs to eat to support your goals and make sure you're meeting your body's nutritional needs? I'm about to break it down.
First, why are Carbohydrates important?
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. They give you the energy to walk, talk, run, hike, climb, crawl, think, dance, pick things up and put them down and much more. And they help you support a healthy waistline, supply essential vitamins and minerals, and empower healthy body function.
The natural sugars and starches found in carbs are broken down by the body and turned into glucose so they can be used as energy.
The fiber found in carbs is not broken down by the body, instead it helps you feel full, (an important part of maintaining a healthy weight), and supports healthy body function.
Carbs contain soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose control, and the insoluble fiber adds bulk, keeping you regular.
What is the difference between "good" and "bad" Carbs?
In the nutrition world, carbohydrates are often referred to as "complex" and "simple," which the diet industry has deemed "good and "bad."
Complex carbohydrates are unprocessed, contain fiber and are naturally found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The body recognizes these carbs and puts them to work, giving you the energy you need for day-to-day tasks and using their nutrients to support healthy body function.
Simple carbohydrates are typically found in processed foods such as crackers, chips, candies, sweetened beverages, white pastas 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.
Does this mean you can't eat the crackers, chips or muffins? No, it simply means limiting your consumption of these kinds of carbs while help you better support your overall health and wellness.
The problem with restricting carbs. Not only are you removing the body's primary energy source, consistently severely restrict your intake of complex carbs 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, "That's great, I'll just burn off all the fat!" It's not that simple.
Each macronutrient has its own job to do -- 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 others to try and take on its role, which strains the body and its abilities to perform, feel and function its best. Not to mention the mental trauma that restricting food groups can create by creating a "good" and "bad" narrative when it comes to the foods we eat.
How many carbohydrates does your body need?
It depends on several factors: your age, activity level, current weight and/or weight loss goals, and current health state. The general recommendation is that carbohydrates make up 35-65% of your total daily caloric intakes (based on a 2,000 calorie diet). Ideally aiming for the more nutrient dense complex carbs that are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains in order to reap the greatest nutritional benefit.
Examples of Complex Carbs
Variety of Fruits
Variety of Vegetables
Dark Leafy Greens
Whole Wheat Products
Nuts & Seeds
Unsweetened Greek Yogurt
Examples of Simple 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 perform, feel and function its best. Most complex carbs also provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, key to supporting overall health and wellness. Cutting carbs can be detrimental for both your short and long term health. As a firm believer that all foods fit, its important to enjoy a healthy balance of foods you enjoy, that may look like pairing a salad with a slice of pizza or some whole grain toast with nut butter and an apple. There's room for healthy and less healthy foods to coexist when you practice balanced eating.
Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.