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In Defense of Carbs: Stop the Hating! - Dietetic Directions - Dietitian and Nutritionist in Kitchener/Waterloo
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In Defense of Carbs: Stop the Hating!

In Defence of Carbs Stop Hating

In Defense of Carbs: Stop the Hating!

“I have been cutting my carbs”, “I am avoiding carbs”, “I don’t eat carbs” – these are all things I frequently hear from conscientious dieters. “After all,” they say, “aren’t carbs bad for me?” Thank you Dr. Atkins for leaving people so confused and worried about this misunderstood macronutrient. Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not bad for you; in fact, they play a crucial role in appetite regulation and maintaining a healthy weight!

Today’s post is in defense of carbohydrates. We will explore carbohydrates, why our bodies NEED them and I will leave you with final thoughts to put it all together.

 

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (noun): Any one of various substances providing the body with energy and are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Carbohydrates include:

  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn, squash)
  • Whole grains (bread, pasta, cereals, quinoa, rice, bulgur, wheat berries etc.)
  • Pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils)
  • Milk (sweetened yogurts, lactose is a sugar)
  • Fruits (fresh, frozen, fried fruits)

However, not all carbs are created equal.  There are “less healthy” carbohydrates, or “simple sugars” that do not contribute nutritional value and should be limited. These include: pop or juices, cookies, candies, chips, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, granola bars, etc.

 

Pasta

 

Why We NEED Carbohydrates:

  1. The body’s main (and preferred) source of fuel or energy!

    • Carbs are broken down into glucose (sugar) before being absorbed into the blood stream for energy.
    • All of our body tissues and cells use glucose for functioning (ie. kidneys, brain, heart, muscle etc).
    • A diet low in carbs can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery. Fat and protein are harder to turn into energy than carbs, which means you may feel low on energy during your exercise session.

 

  1. Carbohydrates preserve muscle mass:

    • Since carbs are the preferred energy source, without them, our bodies break down protein from our muscles.
    • Short-term weight loss on a very carb restricted diet comes from loss of muscle mass and loss of water.
    • Long-term weight loss requires preserving muscle mass to boost your metabolism. Lower muscle mass means your body requires fewer calories to maintain your weight or weight loss.

 

Exercise

 

  1. Carbohydrates help to control appetite and cravings:

    • Without minimum carbohydrates, we are prone to low energy, irritability and cravings for simple sugars (vending machine snacks).
    • I advise clients that if they are hungry, think of carbohydrates (paired with a protein – like apple and cheese string) as a way of boosting your energy to avoid cravings or feeling “hangry” (hungry + angry).

 

DYK: Carbohydrates help control appetite and cravings? Click To Tweet

 

  1. Carbohydrates contain important vitamins and minerals:

    • Carbohydrate foods contain vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and magnesium.

 

  1. Wholesome carbohydrates help you meet your fibre requirements:

    • Fibre helps maintain blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, and supports good bowel function.
    • Research shows diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
    • Fibre rich foods also curb appetite and stabilize blood sugars, which means fewer cravings and a more sustainable diet!

 

Bottom Line:

Carbohydrates are not the enemy; especially carbohydrates that are loaded with fibre and vitamins and minerals. Processed carbohydrates are a different story and if these types of sugars can be reduced in your diet that is a good thing!

Remember that the best diet is the one you can stick to! If you find yourself dabbling with carb restrictions and falling into “yo-yo dieting” then you may need to allow yourself to accept that carbohydrates can fit as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Carbohydrate requirements will vary from person to person depending on gender, age and physical activity level. If you are uncertain how much to eat in order to give your body enough energy to sustain your physical activity and lifestyle, speak with a dietitian.

  • Karen

    Good work shedding light on this important topic! It is time for people to stop demonizing carbohydrates. So many healthy foods fall into the carbohydrate category.

  • Kate | HappyForks.com

    Well written! Carbohydrates are OK if you eat them consciously. There is nothing bad if they play main role in a breakfast or in a lunch, but not too many people is able to use entire carb load in the night after having pasta for dinner – even if it was whole meal one. Another example from my observations – lots of people struggling with weight excess think that honey is good choice for them to sweeten tea or cookies – but they don’t realize that average teaspoon of honey weighing 7g contains almost 6 g of pure sugars and delivers over 20 kcal while one packed teaspoon of brown sugar weights 5 grams, delivers same amount of sugars and 17 kcal.

  • Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD

    Hi Kate and Karen! Thanks for reading and sharing your views!

  • Caroline

    I’ve been on every diet under the sun and my most recent was the South Beach diet…this is VERY low carb and I did lose weight BUT I could not for the life of me continue that level of restriction. I gained the weight back and then some extra…..I tried another diet again that was very low carb and the same thing again. I appreciate this article Andrea because it makes us feel okay about having carbohydrates in the diet – especially because as “dieters” we are made to think they are the devil. I will try not think of these foods as bad especially when they actually help me in sticking to a healthy way of eating instead of restrictions and feeling hungry and angry (hangry). No yo-yo diets for me anymore! Healthy eating long term is key!!!! Go carbs, you’re good in my books!

  • Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD

    Hi Caroline, I am glad you enjoyed the read! Thanks for tuning into Dietetic Directions!

  • Love the permission to eat the right carbs when needed. I do find that only salads with protein leave me still hungry. PS. LOVE the photo above. It’s really quite stunning. Did you take it yourself?

  • Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD

    Thank you Patti! 🙂 The photo was chosen because it is so cool, but no it is a stock photo. My recipes are all personal photos! Thanks for reading!