Carbs have been misunderstood, misconstrued and miscalculated. We have avoided Carbs for all the wrong reasons and we have consumed them for equally wrong reasons.
Carbohydrates are there for a reason. If you only knew better, you can’t afford to let carbs go down the drain and move on without them. All you need to know is the difference between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates to help you understand whether you need them in your diet.
We wrote an article about the Truth About Carbs a while back at Fit Addict so we decided to revisit this topic due to the overwhelming response we have received. It seems that Carbohydrates are one of those topics that very many women still can’t fully understand.
Do Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight?
Of all calorie-producing foods, carbohydrates are the most wrongly accused by overly sensitive dieters for being the culprit of weight gain. But obviously this is a case of misinformation or on a heavy note, ignorance. a Carbohydrate rich diet doesn’t necessarily equate with weight gain. Rather it is the excessive consumption of the wrong carbs in your diet.
Practically speaking, for us to survive on this earth, all we truly need are fat and protein. But life is not about survival; life on the other hand is about reaching your optimum potential. And here is where carbohydrates comes in. Carbs have glucose which our brains identify as its most preferred fuel source to energize us in daily activity and much more in our high-level exercises.
The Beautiful Complexity of Carbs
You don’t need any medical background to understand the basics about carbohydrates. It is basically the primary source of energy. In our brain, carbohydrates are identified as the ideal energy source while energy from fat metabolism serves only as back up.
The Carbohydrate family is composed of sugars, starches and fiber except for unabsorbed fiber. These carbs form and then get converted into tiny glucose molecules that provide every cell in our body with energy.
Carbohydrates are either plant-based foods or animal-based. But all of them except for dairy products are plant based such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Linked together like chains, they form into single, double or multiple groupings of hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
Carbs are also categorized into simple carbs and complex carbs.
The simple ones are those that are single chained and double chained sugars identifiable by names ending with “-ose”. On food labels you can read glucose and fructose (from fruits), lactose (from dairy products) and sucrose (from cane and beet sugar). These simple sugars provide no nutritional value since they contain none or very few micronutrients, vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals.
Complex carbs on the other hand are simple sugars joined together in many chains. They are called oligosachharides and polysaccharides. They are carbohydrates stored in plants in the form of starch and fiber. They are to be found in grains, breads, pasta, beans, potatoes, corn and many other vegetables.
Good Carbs and Bad Carbs
Our body is like a machine that grinds and consumes anything we feed it. So it basically has no idea whether the carbs you’ve fed it is good or bad for your health.
It is your job to know and identify which carbs and how much you should feed your body. Feeding your body with simple carbs (like fructose and glucose) will not do your body any good at all since they contain no nutritional value at all. Instead, glucose is let loose into your bloodstream and sugar rises quickly.
Sugar from complex carbs like fruits though not at all different from sugar found in candy, maple syrup, honey or brown sugar, provide you with valuable calories because they provide vitamins, minerals and fiber that boost energy and strength for our bodies.
On the “watch out list” of harmful carbs is the high fructose corn syrup. A simple carb usually found in sodas and processed foods, they disrupt all diet efforts because our body converts this simple carb so quickly into fat much faster than complex carbs. Earlier common sources of fructose used to be fruits like apples, figs and honey but by the 1960s high fructose corn syrup began to be commercially available becoming the top source for sweeteners claiming 20% of our total daily carb consumption.
Most noteworthy is the fact that even among complex carbs, there are vast differences in health benefits they provide. The top notcher for nutritional benefits are whole grains. They are digested much slower and has regulated glucose production in our body. However, complex carbs like white rice and white flour are void or very limited with fiber because of processing. Worst of all are the French fries that come from the very nutritious potatoes but then have totally lost all health benefits due to the deep-frying process.
How Much Carbohydrates Should You Eat?
How much Carbs you should eat per day simply depends on the lifestyle you keep.
Excess carbs would mean stored fat. Shortage would mean protein and muscle breakdown for glucose. A good rule of thumb would be to understand your level of activity and intensity of exercise.
If you are one of those who work out at maximum heart rate for lengthy time periods, you should have 50-60 % carbs in your diet.
But if you are a low intensity exercise type of person, you practically don’t need much carbs. You don’t need fuel you can’t use. For this level, you simply need fat, protein, fruits and veggies. You don’t need starchy carbs anymore.
Here are tips for effective carb consumption:
- Avoid refined and processed foods
- Watch out for foods with added sugar. Steer clear of those with “-oses” on the label like high fructose corn syrup.
- Choose healthy sources of carbs like whole grains such as oats, cerials, rye, millet, quinoa, whole wheat and brown rice plus beans, legumes, fruits and veggies.
- Go for 40 % of complex carbohydrates in your total intake
- Low-fat foods are a big “No, no” since they usually contain great amounts of calories from sugar.
- Low-carb foods are also to be avoided because they also tend to have more calories from fat.
Fear no more. Carbs are yours to enjoy and benefit from. Elimination of carbs completely will limit your enjoyment of foods and will make it less appealing to keep your diet plan. A complete intake of macronutrients including carbs can make your body energetic and strong with controlled quantities, you give yourself the highest possibility of looking better and feeling stronger.