Are Carbs the Enemy?

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.

Carbs.are.pretty.

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.

-Therefore if sugar is a carb- items sweetened with sugar will.be.carbs

-Cakes/cookies/candy/Ice cream

-Breads/tortillas/crackers/chips/cereal

-Grains/Grain products/Rice/Pasta

-Potatoes/peas/corn/avocados

-Milk/yogurt

-Fruit/fruit juice

-beans/nuts/seeds

-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:

Butter is NOT a carb.  But we'll get to that.

Butter is NOT a carb. But we’ll get to that.

2 thoughts on “Are Carbs the Enemy?

  1. Lindsay Powers Nutrition says:

    I think you’ve put this really well and explained the carb situation. It’s important to realise that our diets have become so carb heavy these days and for a lot of nations it can be argued that this is contributing to the obesity epidemic. But like you say if you pick complex carbs they can be a ‘healthful’ part of our diets, combined with a good proportion of protein and healthy fats. A lot of people have be wary over the past few decades of fats in particular, with the popularity of low fat diets, but encouragingly the message is coming through now that fats are an important part of our diet. There’s loads of research out there now regarding omega-3 fats, for example, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, which can have a myriad of health benefits. So moving forward if we get the balance right, which can be an individual thing anyway, we can enjoy foods from all the food groups and can stop thinking of any foods as ‘bad’.

  2. SarahJeanRD says:

    Thank-you, glad you enjoyed it! I am planning some upcoming posts on fat as well, and some other (what I hope will be) very informative posts in the upcoming weeks. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s