Before we talk about carbs. Let’s define what a carbohydrate is. A carbohydrate is a macronutrient, it is essential we (as humans) take in an adequate amount of carbohydrates throughout the day. Carbohydrates are important because after digestion carbohydrates are broken down into glucose.
Glucose is really important. It’s basically fuel to humans in the same regard gas is fuel for cars. You don’t put enough gas in the tank when you head out to the highway- you’ll run out of gas. Same thing applies on the opposite side you over-fill your tank at the pump you waste money and your car doesn’t use the wasted fuel for energy.
Carbs breakdown to glucose. Glucose makes our muscles, and our brain, and cells happy and promotes our bodies utilizing energy. You skip a meal, or don’t eat carbs you get a little worn down. Put too many carbs in at a meal and not all of those carbs are going to be used as fuel. Some will, some will go the liver to be used as reserves in-between meals, and the rest are delightfully turned into fat. Ain’t that grand.
Bottom line so far: carbs are important but they do not need to be eaten in excess.
So now. What foods are carbs:
-Sugar. Sugar itself is a carbohydrate. So are its “cousins” (fructose, galactose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, glucose), table sugar is sucrose.
-many commercial soups/sauces- including ketchup and BBQ sauce
Obviously you can see that some of these carbs are healthier than some of the others. Carbohydrates can be further broken into groups of simple carbohydrates and complex carbs. Complex carbs are going to be the “healthier carbs”- higher in fiber, and nutrients, and lacking in added/unnecessary sugars. The best choices for starches will be sweet potatoes, baked white potatoes, peas, beans, wheat breads, brown rice, and whole wheat options. I like how this chart breaks down dietary fiber as well and explain soluble versus insoluble fiber.
And as you can see at the bottom of the chart the end product is glucose.
The simple carbohydrates mostly lack fiber, and break down into more than just glucose. Most Simple sugars are prime examples of empty calories. These will include things like white rice/bread, chips, and sweets- but also items such as milk, milk products, yogurt, and fruit. These should ideally make up a majority of any simple sugar intake.
Ideally carbs are eaten in combination with protein, healthy fats, and non starchy vegetables (any vegetable that is NOT potatoes/peas/corn) to achieve balance. According to the MyPlate guidelines, carbohydrates make about about 25% of one’s plate, and my recommendation is that these carbs are complex carbs.
Carbs are also super duper important for athletes, and exercise- mainly endurance activities (tri-athletes, distance running, biking, etc.). But that will be revisited.
Final bottom line: eat carbs. Choose complex carbs, and enjoy simple carbs infrequently. And remember: