Carbs make you fat…
I mean… I read it on facebook so it MUST be true…Plus all that “low carb”, “no carb” marketing out there at the moment, carbs must be bad, right?
Actually…… Carbs are VERY important. Matter of fact-o, Carb-o-hydrates (the good kind of course – stay with me here) are a vital part of your daily dietary requirements.
Let’s go back to basics for a minute here;
Carbs are molecules that have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Okay, maybe this is too far back? Basically, in nutrition, “carbs” refers to one of the three macronutrients (or macros as you may see on your insta feed). The other two are protein and fat.
Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:
- Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
- Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
- Fibre: Humans cannot digest fibre, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.
The main purpose of carbs in the diet is to provide ENERGY🤩. Most carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can then be used as energy. Carbs can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use.
Fibre is an exception though… It doesn’t provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria can use the fibre to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy.
Thinking about carbs usually brings up images of anything and everything you’ve been programmed to avoid: pasta, cookies, cake, BREAD! These foods get a pretty bad rap, so it’s no wonder that so many of us get the impression that carbs are bad.
But what if I told you you’re thinking about this all wrong? What if I told you that not all carbs are created equal…
Carbs can often be referred to as “simple” vs “complex,” or I’ve also seen them referred to as “whole” vs “refined” which also makes sense.
Some types of carbs don’t have much in the way of nutritional benefits: We’re looking at you, sugar 👀. Sugar is a basic, broken-down carbohydrate, devoid of any nutrients. And as you’ve undoubtedly heard, eating too much added sugar is associated with a host of health problems. It’s reasonable to want to limit the amount of added sugar you consume on a regular basis, from a health perspective.
But complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grain breads, grains like quinoa, and yes, fruits, veggies, and dairy, are all part of a healthy diet. In fact, your body needs carbs to complete its basic functions.
Basically, the refined carbs are associated with obesity and metabolic diseases, but whole, unprocessed carbohydrate foods are very healthy.
As a general rule, carbs that are in their natural, fibre-rich form are healthy, while those that have been stripped of their fibre are not. If it is a whole, single ingredient food, then it is most likely a healthy food, no matter what the carb content is.
With this in mind, it’s so easy to categorise most carbs as either “good” or “bad” – but keep in mind that these are just general guidelines.
Are things ever black and white in nutrition? Maybe this easy to read chart may help 🤓
To wrap this up, carbs are a nutrient that our body needs. Carbs are the main energy source for our body – they are the energy that gets used first (before protein and fat). It is recommended that about 45-60% of our energy intake should come from carbs.
Carbs are important for normal health, so don’t cut them out of your diet!