How many times have you heard your friends say things like:
“Carbs make you fat.” or “Carbs are bad for you.” or “I’m on a low-carb diet” or “I’m on the paleo OR Atkins diet.”
All of these statements essentially say that carbohydrates (carbs) are not healthy for you. However, the fact is, carbohydrates are your friend! You need them in your diet. And yes, vegetables are forms of carbohydrates.
So, why are carbohydrates your friend?
#1 thing: Glucose is your body’s main source of energy. Guess where glucose come from. That’s right. Carbohydrates.
Bananas, apples, whole wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cookies. Yes, all of these foods contain carbohydrates (yes, broccoli has carbs). All plant based foods contain carbs.
So, why is it so important to consume carbohydrates? Well, your brain can only use glucose as a form of energy (think of your Central Nervous System!). Because of the constant need of glucose for the brain, the body stores some glucose as glycogen in your liver and muscle cells.
When someone decides to consume a diet low in carbohydrates, the body will turn to glycogen so that there is enough glucose in the blood stream to feed to the brain. The body can only store so much glycogen that the body will run out and start converting fat and amino acids into glucose, called gluconeogenesis. The end product of this process are ketones and they are acidic. A build up of too much ketones in the body can damage tissues in the body. It can lead to coma and death.
#2 thing: I’m NOT saying that you can consume all the cake and cookies in the world. All I am saying is that carbohydrates is your body’s preferred energy source. It is better to consume carbohydrates that contain fiber. For example: brown rice, whole wheat/grain bread, sweet potato, vegetables. Basically, whole foods are good sources of carbohydrates.
45-65% (the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, AMDR) of your calories should be carbohydrates. There is some math involved with this and each individual person is different when it comes to how much carbohydrates an individual person needs (activity level, diabetes mellitus, etc). It is best to consult with a Registered Dietitian for a more individualized plan.
So, don’t be scared of carbs. Your body needs it for energy. The USDA MyPlate recommends consuming at least half of your grains as whole grains. So, try incorporating whole grain into your diet. Mix white and brown rice together or use one slice of white bread and one slice of whole wheat bread for sandwiches.
What’s your favorite type of carbohydrate to consume?
P.S. My next nutrition related post will give examples on how to calculate grams of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats based on caloric need and the AMDR.