Carbs have been a very popular and controversial topic of discussion lately. Many people are trying out various different fad diets that instruct them to heavily restrict, or eliminate, their consumption of carbs. The idea that all carbs are bad for you and will cause you to gain weight is incorrect. Carbs are actually an essential part of our diet, and we need them in order to function best. Let’s go over some of the basics of carbs and learn more about their importance.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other foods. Carbs are an essential macronutrient that support bodily functions; carbs are also the body’s main source of energy.
It is important to understand that there are many different types of carbs. Most often, you will hear people classify carbs into two separate groups, good and bad. Good carbs refer to the types of carbs that provide the most health benefits. Bad carbs refer to the carbs that are simpler, refined, and offer the least health benefits. Carbs are sugars, starches, and fibers. These three classifications of carbs include many different types of foods that offer a range of health benefits.
Sugar can occur in food naturally, or it can be added. The sugars that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables are healthier. When you consume foods with sugar in them, the body breaks the sugar down into its smaller molecular components, like glucose. Glucose travels through the bloodstream and is converted to the energy needed for basic body functions and exercise. Differentiating between natural vs. added sugar is important, because consuming too much sugar can be detrimental to your health. Eating an excessive amount of sugar can lead to weight gain and blood sugar problems. The best way to avoid problems with sugar is to try to avoid added sugars and consume natural sugars instead.
Fiber is part of a healthy diet that is essential for digestion. Dietary fiber refers to nutrients from food that are not digested but still needed for the body to function properly. Fiber helps to speed up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon by encouraging and easing bowel movements. The consumption of fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Reducing cholesterol levels can help to protect against heart disease. A high fiber intake has also been shown to help prevent blood sugar spikes in individuals with diabetes by slowing the absorption of sugar. Additionally, a high fiber diet can also help with weight control. Consuming fiber can make you feel fuller and encourage you to eat less.
Starch is an important carbohydrate that is a source of energy. Starches take longer to digest and process than sugars, so they offer a longer-lasting source of energy. When consumed, your body uses the starch carbohydrates that it needs immediately and stores the rest as glycogen. This glycogen can then be used for energy later when you need it. Many foods that contain starch also contain fiber, calcium, vitamins, and iron. Consuming these nutrient dense foods helps you to avoid any problems with nutrient-deficiency.
Carbs are an important part of your diet, because they provide your body with the energy that it needs to properly function. Many of the body’s natural processes require energy, and not eating enough carbs can cause problems. If you have an insufficient intake of carbs, the body will resort to consuming protein for fuel. Whether you eat carbs or not, the natural processes and functions of the body require energy, and your body is going to get this energy from somewhere. When the body is forced to use protein instead of carbs for fuel, it can be problematic. This use of protein prevents the body from properly using protein to make muscles, and it can also put stress on the kidneys.
It is important to remember that carbohydrates do play an essential and key role in your body’s natural processes. It can be easy to get sucked into fad diets, like keto, that condemn carbs. Diets like these promise “success” in the form of weight loss, but most people do not understand the costs of this weight loss. Restricting and/or avoiding the consumption of carbs is detrimental to your overall health. Our bodies are designed to use the molecules present in carbs for energy. Trying to work against your body and forcing your body to use other sources for energy is neither healthy nor sustainable. Be mindful of the types of carbs that you consume. Try to pick natural sugars over added sugars, and don’t neglect foods rich in fiber or starch. Your diet doesn’t have to be restrictive for you to be healthy!