How do carbohydrates function in your body? We all love carbs, and the good news is that you don’t need to say good-bye to carbs! They are an essential component of a healthy WFPB diet. Here you’ll learn why you need to eat carbs, how much to include, which carbs to enjoy, and which to stay away from!
Oh, how we all LOVE carbs!
Carbs, carbs, carbs! We hear about carbs all the time. The delicious sweet doughy texture, the smell of fresh baked bread, or chocolate chip cookies, it’s enough to make you swoon! But then again, you’ve been told countless times that carbs are the enemy to your health and weight loss goals. Are carbs bad for your health? Carbohydrates function and serve our bodies.
Carbs Under Attack
In recent years there has been a surge in diets that promote the elimination of carbs. When trying to lose weight fast, many people turn to low carb diets. While we give this diets a try, and often see results, the sustainability of a diet restrictive in carbs is not sustainable long-term. The bread basket on the dinner table is difficult to resist. The chips and salsa call our name. We get pulled back into our love affair with carbs, and as a result the progress we made with our weight loss goals disappears. The good news is carbs are not bad as a rule. You can eat carbs and achieve your weight loss goals, when you’re selective about the carbs you choose. There are two types of carbs, complex carbs, and simple carbs.
3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Deny Yourself Carbs!
Carbohydrates Function to Provide Energy to Your Body
- CarbComplex carbs are found in fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grains. Eliminating many vegetables and fruits from your diet based on their carb content, is not a general rule you want to follow. By eliminating these foods you’re also eliminating essential nutrients your body needs.
- Whole grains such as 100% whole grain breads and pastas, quinoa, oats, farro, and bulgar to name a few, contain necessary nutrients that deliver energy to your body.
- Complex carbs break down into sugars and slowly enter your blood stream in a continuous flow which provides you with energy over a longer period of time. When you eat a bowl of steel-cut oats in the morning topped with fresh fruit and chopped nuts, your hunger is satiated until lunch time. Your body was designed to eat carbs and use them as the primary source of energy in the form of glucose. Protein and fat are also necessary for proper functioning, but it is the glucose found in carbs that keep you moving and grooving through your day.
THE BAD-SIMPLE CARBS
Simple carbs are the ones found in cakes, cookies, muffins, and baked goods containing white flour. These simple carbs have been processed and stripped of their nutrients. They break down quickly and easily, and flow directly into your blood stream, causing a sugar spike. In essence simple carbs are simple sugars, and as we know sugar doesn’t have any nutritional value and can in fact be linked to numerous health problems. Compared to that bowl of steel-cut oatmeal that keeps you feeling full, when you choose a blueberry muffin for breakfast you’ll be hungry by 10:00am.
THE UGLY-HEALTH COMPLICATIONS
While going on a high protein low carb diet can help you lose weight initially, it is not a long term solution. Most people struggle to eliminate carbs for the rest of their lives, and as mentioned above our bodies were made to consume complex carbs to function. The problem arrises when we consume simple carbs. Because simple carbs are digested quickly it is easy to overeat, and in turn consume more calories than necessary which causes weight gain. Not all calories are created equal. That bowl of oatmeal with fruit and chopped nuts is delivering you macro and micro nutrients, while that blueberry muffins is just delivering sugar. Not only that, the sugar content of simple carbs is associated with numerous other health concerns including heart disease, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cancer.
Carbohydrates function to provide our bodies with energy. There are carbs that are good, and carbs that are bad. So, stay away from the bad ones, but don’t shy away from the good ones. Complex carbs have a necessary place in a nutrient rich diet, and they won’t cause you to gain weight when you eat the right ones in moderation. Whole grains, bananas, peas, apples, and carrots contain a higher carb content, but they are still good for you, and you should incorporate these foods as part of a healthy diet.
TIPS AND TRICKS
When you’re trying to eat healthy, the less complicated, the easier it will be to follow long term.
My carb mantra #1: If it’s in it’s whole and natural state, it’s a go!
An apple is an apple. Lentils are lentils, etc.
My carb mantra #2: If it’s packaged it must be 5 ingredients or less, all ingredients I can read and pronounce.
Yes, these carbs are good!
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Look for the 100% Whole Wheat symbol and read the ingredient label. Many bread companies sneak in refined flour into their breads, and have a long list of ingredients).
- 100% whole wheat pasta (look for the 100% whole wheat symbol)
- Brown rice
- Steel-Cut Oats
No, these carbs are bad!
*These items tend to come packaged, are in the middle of the grocery store or the bakery section.
- Most dry packaged cereals
- Baked goods (muffins, cookies, donuts, cakes, croissants…)
- Any bread that has refined flour, even if it’s refined wheat flour
- Granola with added sugar
- Most packaged crackers
- Packaged cookies
- Packaged potato products
- Packaged breakfast foods (waffles, pancakes, bagels)
For more information about carbs, please visit Dr. McDougall’s website for a wealth of information on health related to carbohydrates. To learn about how to incorporate a plant-based diet into your life utilizing the power of healthy carbs, check out my 3 Essential Steps to Help You Transition to a Plant-Based Diet.