Carbohydrates are treated like the outsider of macronutrients. Most people who aren’t well versed on the importance of carbohydrates assume that they will lose weight if they give them up. We’ve already talked about protein, so let’s look at another important part of the puzzle: carbohydrates.
Truthfully, you probably will lose weight if you give up carbs. The reason? Most Americans are eating diets full of simple carbohydrates that turn into sugar when metabolized; your body burns this sugar for energy. When you stop eating carbohydrates your body starts burning fat for energy. That leads to weight loss. This is the principle that low-carb diets are born from. Turn your body into a fat burner and you’re on the fast track to slimming down.
But is a long term, no carbohydrate lifestyle sustainable for all of us? I know that it’s not a sustainable lifestyle for me.
My coworker likes to quote me as saying “a meal isn’t nearly as satisfying without a good piece of bread.” It’s true. I 100% feel this way. There is something insanely satisfying about bread and carbohydrate side dishes and that’s one of the reasons you should eat your carbs – your body needs and wants them.
Carbohydrates come in three forms:
- Sugar (or a simple carbohydrate): simple carbohydrates are most often found in processed foods but there are places where simple carbohydrates occur naturally, like milk and fruit.
- Starch (or a complex carbohydrate): corn, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, yams, breads, pasta and rice.
- Fiber (another complex carbohydrate): beans, lentils, peas, artichoke, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, blackberries, and oatmeal.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying you need to eat more simple carbohydrates. Despite giving you a nice boost of energy, simple carbohydrates lack the fiber, minerals and nutrients that make complex carbs ideal.
You Feel Good When You Eat Carbs
You do, don’t you? Ever notice the cranky feeling that creeps in when you’re on a protein and veggies only diet? Studies have shown that carbohydrates eaters have an overall better mood and improved energy when compared to people who are abstaining from carbs.
Carbohydrates will help you sleep better
This point dispels another myth: don’t eat carbs at night (or before bed). A study found that men who consumed a higher glycemic index carbohydrate 4 hours before bed had a shorter sleep onset latency period compared to those who had a lower glycemic index food. Sleep onset latency period refers to the transition from full wakefulness to sleep. It might because insulin is triggered by the high glycemic index meal and it helps to bring tryptophan to the brain faster, inducing sleepiness.
Eating carbs will help you lose weight
Carbohydrates can help you lose weight and here’s how: if you fill up on resistant starches and fibrous vegetables you’ll stay full longer and increase your nutrient intake. A resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber naturally found in many carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes, grains, and beans, particularly when these foods are cooked and then cooled. It’s also found in bananas that are still slightly green. Resistant starches bypass normal digestion and act as a prebiotic in the digestive tract; that means they feed your good gut bacteria. The best part about resistant starches is that they show promising research in their ability to improve insulin response and this is really valuable for people with diabetes.
Interested in learning more on Resistant Starches? Start here.
The takeaway? Don’t give up carbs. Make better choices when it comes to carbohydrates:
choose old fashioned oatmeal instead of instant, which tends to contain a lot of sugar in addition to little nutritional value
choose a sweet potato instead of a white potato for an increase in vitamins and minerals
add a side of broccoli to every meal, the fiber will help you fill up and keep you full
eat bananas that are more green vs. brown to boost your intake of resistant starch
choose low sugar fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
eat black beans, pinto beans or chickpeas to boost your fiber intake
Making regular good choices allows you to eat the foods you enjoy without criminalizing an entire macronutrient. Remember, 80/20!
Your turn: what is your favorite carb? Have you every tried a low carb or no carb diet?