What’s the deal with carbs? Am I the only one who wonders exactly what they are and why I need them? Are they really the “enemy,” as some fitness gurus proclaim? And how the heck can some carbs be “good” and some be “bad?”
Am I asking too many questions?
Enough asking, let’s do some research and find out the truth about carbohydrates.
What Are They?
Scientifically speaking (Hey! That happens to be another excellent WUU blog series written by a super duper smart writer), carbohydrates are molecules that can be divided into four chemical groups: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.
Sounds complicated, right? Just know that the first two listed are referred to as sugars, or simple carbohydrates; and the other two are known as starches, or complex carbohydrates. Foods high in simple carbs are soft drinks, candy, and sweetened jams or jellies. And complex carbs are found in foods such as bread, potatoes, and pasta.
Basically, carbs are found in a lot of foods…like, it’s super tough to completely cut these guys out of your diet. But since when did carbs become the plague that everyone tries to avoid?
Forget the Amount, Focus on Quality
The truth is that we need carbs to survive—they serve as important sources of energy storage in the form of starch and glycogen, and many contain crucial biomolecules that play key roles in the immune system, fertilization, and blood clotting.
It’s safe to say that cutting out carbs isn’t the healthiest solution to consuming a healthy diet. In fact, people often get so lost in counting the amount of carbs they’re consuming that they forget what’s really important: the quality of them.
One way to focus on quality is to consume more nutrient-dense foods. High-carbohydrate foods that are more nutrient dense are often those that haven’t been refined or processed: vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains (okay, minimally processed). While some of the less nutritious options are: soda, sweet treats, or cakes.
The next time you reach for a carb-heavy food, be sure to question the quality of it, and always try to consume more nutrient-dense options.
Everything in Moderation
Not to backtrack here, but just because cutting carbs isn’t the solution, don’t assume it’s free-for-all carb-loading party. Consuming an excess amount of carbs can also be detrimental to your health (specifically, your weight).
Many Americans consume way too many carbs and total calories throughout the day (Google it, my friends.). And, because they’re not expending a comparable amount of energy by exercising, this carb overload could be a major contributing factor to our continued problem with obesity and type II diabetes. This isn’t a pass for those of you not living in the States, either. You still need to keep your carbs in “Czech”! (You see what I did there? My international pun game is on point. “Kenya” believe how funny I am? I know…I hate myself too. Back to the carbs.)
To keep yourself in check, focus on the ratio of healthy carbs to protein and fat on your dinner plate. There’s a whole bunch of conflicting information on what that exact ratio should be, but this is my blog post, so you’ll get my recommendation.
With every meal, I do my best to include as much protein as carbs and fat. Is it hard a lot of the time? Of course. But it’s the fact that you’re aware of what goes in your body and you’re making an effort to consume lean sources of protein.
There you have it—a deeper look into the world of carbohydrates. Just remember that I’m no doctor, so always be sure to consult your physician or nutritionist to discuss the ideal carb intake for your own body—everyone’s different.
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