Finally, the truth about Carbs.

Carbohydrates are bad and make you gain weight, right?! This is what the current diet culture tells us. But what's the truth? Are carbs bad for us? How much is too much? What kinds should we be eating? We explore all this & more in the article below. 

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Contrary to popular myth, carbs are NOT bad for you! Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, providing the body with energy and supporting good health. This is true when they are consumed in appropriate amounts and from nutrient-dense sources.

Read on to learn more, including how many to eat!

Here are our pro tips for enjoying carbs.   

1. Choose Complex Carbs

Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Complex carbohydrates are a type of carbohydrate that consists of longer chains of sugar molecules. These take longer for the body to break down and digest compared to simple carbohydrates. They are often referred to as "good carbs" because they provide sustained energy and have additional health benefits.

These foods provide essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are vital for digestive health, immune function, and overall vitality. They also serve as the body's primary source of energy. This means, you need carbs to fuel daily activities and exercise.

Problems arise when we choose simple carbs (like white bread, white rice, chips, crackers, etc), especially when we always seem to choose simple carbs over other nutrients.

Here are examples of complex carbohydrates:

Whole Grains: Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. (See our article on whole grains HERE.) 

Examples include:

Legumes: Legumes are plant-based sources of protein that are also rich in complex carbohydrates. (Make your own fiber-rich hummus with this recipe.

Examples include:

Vegetables: Many vegetables contain complex carbohydrates along with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. (Recipes for Roasted Green Beans and Kale Salad can increase your veggie intake!) 

Examples include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots, beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli, spinach

Fruits: Some fruits are sources of complex carbohydrates, especially those with higher fiber content. (Enjoy Cantaloupe for breakfast or a yummy Smoothie.) 

Examples include:

  • Apples
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Pears
  • Oranges

2. Choose Fiber-Rich Carbs

The fiber content in complex carbohydrates helps regulate blood sugar levels, promote satiety, and maintain a healthy weight by reducing the risk of overeating.

Here are some critical reasons WHY fiber is so important! 

Digestive Health: Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. It adds bulk to stool, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation. Adequate fiber intake promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent digestive issues like hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Fiber helps promote a healthy gut flora, which has been linked to better immune support. 

Blood Sugar Regulation: Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, beans, and fruits, can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes. 

Cholesterol Management: Certain types of fiber, such as the soluble fiber found in oats, can help lower LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels. This kind of fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and gets rid of it. This can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. So the right carbs are great for heart health! 

Weight Management: Ah, the big question! Don't carbs make you gain weight? Isn't this why people love a low-carb diet? 

Actually, research suggests that the reverse can be true! For losing weight in a sustainable way and keeping it off, carbs are helpful! High-fiber foods are often lower in calories and provide a feeling of fullness and satiety. This can help control appetite and prevent overeating. (More on Weight Management here.)

Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: A diet rich in fiber is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. The protective effects of fiber are attributed to its impact on various aspects of health, including digestion, blood sugar control, and inflammation.

3. Go for Variety! 

Like all foods, strive for a variety. Rather than eating just rice or just fruit, try to select complex carbs across all the different kinds we mentioned above. Including a variety of healthy carbohydrates leads to a balanced and nutritious diet that supports long-term health and well-being.

4. How Many Carbs do I Need? 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates should make up 45% to 65% of total daily calories for adults. HOWEVER, this range may vary for people who are extremely active (like professional athletes), people dealing with specific health conditions (always follow your doctor's recommendations), and others.  

Curious about Protein, the other hotly debated macronutrient, including how much is enough? Check out our article on Protein here. 

Want to learn more abut how carbohydrates fit into the Mediterranean Diet, plus enjoy hundreds of recipes? Here's our favorite cookbook




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