20 May Carbs Are Friends
Often people tell me that “carbs are the devil” and they should be avoided at all costs. That’s a myth I’d like to dispel, though. When people discuss carbohydrates they tend to think of pasta, potatoes, bread, and grains— all those things that are at the bottom of the food pyramid. People tend to forget that fruit and vegetables are part of that category.
Another myth is that eating carbs will make you gain weight. But not all carbohydrates are the same. Consider this— some carbs are very rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and those carbs are classified as complex carbohydrates. This is important because our bodies need complex carbs because they provide good nutrition to help us maintain a healthy body.
The opposite of complex carbs are simple carbohydrates which provide a more direct source of energy. They are easy to digest and the human body burns the energy very quickly. Because your body digests them so quickly it takes longer for you to feel satisfied, making it more likely you will eat too many of them. That over-eating is the cause of undesirable weight gain.
Moving towards a diet of complex carbohydrates, by focusing on foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar, is the healthy choice. These complex carbs are available in healthy fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. The fiber slows the rate of your digestion so that energy from these carbs is released over a long period of time. Foods with simple carbs are a poor choice because your body processes all of their energy quickly, leading to a possible energy crash.
Now, let’s discuss sugar. One myth is that there is a difference between putting “good sugar” and “bad sugar” into your body—for instance, the idea that eating a sugary piece of fruit is better than eating a cookie because “fruit sugar” is “good sugar.”
The problem is that even though a piece of fruit could be healthier than a cookie, the difference is not because one contains natural sugar and the other contains processed sugar added from a bag.
Take for example one of my favorite pieces of fruit: a banana. When you eat a banana you’re consuming minerals like potassium and magnesium and vitamin C, B6, and fiber.
But think about the cookie— there are very few nutrients in a cookie. When you eat cookies your body grabs the sugar and rushes it into your system. The large amount of added sugar adds lots of calories that do not appear in fruit. So when you eat fruit, unless you’re eating apple pie or peach cobbler, you are avoiding a lot of bonus calories and supplementing your body with vitamins and minerals.
But, you really need carbs. Why? Because carbs are a source of fuel for your body. The presence of adequate amounts of carbs can spare the body from needing to break down muscle tissue.
So carbs are not your enemy. The enemy is an excessive amount of calories. If you’re eating more calories than your body will burn during your daily routine then you’re going to begin to put on weight. And, simple carbohydrates tend to make you over eat instead of providing long-term satisfaction like complex carbs. So keep the right carbohydrates in your diet, pay attention to what you eat, and eat in moderation. In other words, eat smart.
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