With paleo enthusiasts, eat clean hashtags and whatever “not a diet” diet showing up on your social feed, we felt it was necessary to put this out there: Carbs are not the enemy.
There’s so much to back this statement up and yet, there are many who still avoid carbohydrates like overdrawing one’s bank account. For once and for all, the record needs to be set straight. Carbs are good. Your body needs them. Please, please, stop hating carbs.
WHAT ARE CARBS?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (the other two are protein and fat). Macronutrients provide energy to the body (calories) and the miconutrients they contain (vitamins, minerals, water) assist in the metabolic process. Carbohydrates would be your vegetables, fruit, grains, and legumes. When you eat these foods your body breaks them down into sugar and uses them for energy. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred macro for energy. It supports all of our system, including brain function which relies on glucose to do its job. Carbs contains fiber which keeps you full and your digestive track running smoothly. You need carbs. You’ll feel crappy without them.
CAN’T THE BODY USE PROTEIN FOR FUEL?
Of course it can. It can also use fat but neither of these macros are its top choice. Around 60 percent of your diet should be coming from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and the remainder from healthy fats. You don’t require as much protein or fat on a daily basis to be in optimal health. Protein is what the body likes to use to maintain and repair muscles. It takes longer to be broken down and while it does contain some micronutrients, it’s not necessarily the best place to find phytonutrients (antioxidants, flavonoids, phytochemicals,etc.). Fat can also be used as fuel and helps to metabolize certain vitamins but like protein, it is not what the body wants to use as its main source of fuel.
IF CARBS ARE SO GOOD, WHY DO SOME PEOPLE TELL YOU TO AVOID THEM?
Certain diets or “lifestyles” that shall remain nameless vilify carbohydrates for a variety reasons. Not all of them are without merit. Simple carbs like fruits or even a candy bar are digested very quickly and can cause blood sugar to spike and crash. This is why it’s important to not eat too much of them at one time or to pair them with a protein to keep blood sugar stable. An apple with peanut butter is a perfect example of a simple carb with protein pairing. Certain carbs, like grains, are avoided because of processing techniques which strip the fiberous shell from kernels, making them less nutrient rich. This can easily be remedied by buying grains in their least processed state.
While we would never demonize simple carbs like fruit, the complex carbohydrates are the ones you want to load your plate with. Your unprocessed grains, vegetables, sweet potatoes, the list is quiet extensive. These are the foods that have lots of nutrients, few calories, and are digested slowly while still providing the energy your body needs to work effectively. Diets that tell you to avoid these foods should be looked at with suspicion. If they promise weight loss, don’t be surprised. Cutting out food of any kind tends to do that. It’s better and more sustainable to eat healthfully from all food groups in moderation.
In short, carbs are the business! Embrace them, don’t forsake them. For some of our favorite recipes using carbs, make sure to check out some of our other fuel posts.