By now probably almost everyone has analyzed their diet and made a determination as to whether or not to "cut out carbs." There are many reasons people tend toward this dietary trend, with the most popular reason probably being weight loss. Many people throw around terms like 'good carbs' and 'bad carbs' and categorize them in that way, or just choose to completely avoid the macronutrient entirely.
Carbohydrates by definition are sugar molecules found in a variety of foods such as sugars, starches and fibers. They are one of the human body's primary source of fuel and can play a very important role in a healthy diet. The term carbs is usually used to refer to sugars, grains, vegetables and any cookie, brownie, cake, pastry, etc. in between. There have been many popular diets that have portrayed carbohydrates as the cause of many health problems and encourage people to eliminate grains, starchy vegetables, and beans and other legumes. They replace these foods with more protein usually in the form of animal products and fat.
Low-carb people are not entirely wrong, and this is where the idea of good carbs vs. bad carbs comes into play. However, let's think of it in terms of whole, unprocessed carbs (good), and highly processed, refined carbs (bad) which can pretty much be disastrous for your health. These processed carbs are put through industrial processes that manipulate and refine them until they are nothing resembling the original food. They now lack any healthful nutrients and fiber and do nothing but provide a dense caloric load. So, to say "carbs are bad" is essentially half true. Eliminating processed and refined carbohydrates is a good idea for everyone, while cutting out the whole, unprocessed ones can deprive your body of many health benefits that come from whole grains, beans and starchy vegetables.
Again, a big reason people tend toward the low-carb diet trend is weight loss. They're not wrong, you probably will lose weight on a low-carb diet. Your body would now be burning fat as fuel rather than glucose, which results in temporary weight loss. These diets, however are very hard to stay on and almost always lead to the weight being put back on. This is due to the lack of truly satiating foods. Again, this way of eating will deprive your body of some of it's most essential nutrients. The foods people usually choose to replace the carbs with are usually highly processed sources of protein and fat and this can lead to some major health issues (I'll save that for another post!).
If we've ever had a conversation in person about nutrition, there's little chance I haven't mentioned the importance of getting enough fiber in your diet. Dietary fiber is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Most people are not getting even nearly the daily amount of fiber recommended by the Institute of Medicine, which is about 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. Even that amount is most likely too low, as I would always recommend getting closer to 40-50 grams per day.
Fiber is not digested by the body. Instead it passes right through the stomach, small intestine, colon and out of the body taking excess toxins from the gut with it. Some other benefits of fiber are that it can normalize bowel movements. Dietary fiber helps to bulk up and soften stool, making it easier to pass and therefore helps to stop constipation. This leads to reducing your risk of hemorrhoids and also lowers the risk of diverticular disease and colorectal cancer. Fiber also lowers LDL (or 'bad') cholesterol. Diets high in fiber have also been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Refined and processed foods do not provide these benefits because the refining process basically removes its fiber content. Look to get your fiber from foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, b
eans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds.
SO.. There is always more to say on the subjects of carbohydrates, fat, protein, weight loss and health but I will leave you with this for now. If this intrigues you, take an honest assessment of your diet, and see where you can choose better quality foods that will help keep you healthy, more energetic, more regular (YAY) and much less deprived.
As always, leave a comment or send me an email if you have any further questions!