You’ve probably read or heard about “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” But sometimes things get a little more complicated and somehow “all carbs are bad” is the message that many people receive. In truth, carbohydrates are a “macronutrient,” one of the three main nutrients that you need to survive. The others are protein and fat.
If you can’t remember exactly how carbs work because you have forgotten your high school science, here’s a quick reminder. Your body breaks down carbs into glucose. Glucose is then transported through your bloodstream to be used as energy in every cell in your body. For most people, carbs are part of a healthy diet. However, some people have a food intolerance for certain carbs, like sugar. Apart from having a food intolerance or food allergy, you don’t have to avoid all carbs. You just need to know how to enjoy them.
One of the most prevalent food myths around is that carbs make us fat. In truth, no one food group can make you fat. Overeating anything causes weight gain. However, people do tend to overload on carbs because they are the base of many enjoyable junk foods, including crackers, chips, candy bars, and baked sweets to name a few. These foods are unhealthy.
As a result, all carbs, including the good ones like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables tend to bear the brunt of the blame for weight gain. Instead of just blindly banishing all carbs, keep track of what carbs you’re eating, when you’re eating them, and how many you’re eating. You’ll be surprised at how fast that bag of barbeque potato chips disappears. From there, you can cut down on the number of carbs that you consume rather than just avoiding them.
Another common myth about carbs is that they make us tired. This is only partially true. Some carbs, known as simple carbs, found in candy, soda, chips, baked goods, and sweets, raise blood sugar levels quickly. Once your body has used them, you “crash” as your body has spent all the energy and you feel tired. By contrast, you can enjoy complex carbs in the form of whole grains and vegetables, and you won’t get the “crash” followed by lethargy because these carbs are released into the blood stream slowly. The slow release boosts your energy for longer periods and won’t result in you feeling tired. The difference in simple and complex carbs is also why people tend to overeat simple carbs. Because simple carbs are absorbed more quickly, you need to eat more of them to feel satisfied.
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not addictive. Simple carbs are commonly covered in sugar and salt, which make you crave more but it’s the sugar and salt that your body craves. The carbs themselves are not addictive. You may want to eat simpler carb snacks because they taste really good, but they will not satisfy you in the long run, which leads to the tendency to eat more and more of them.
In short, carbs don’t need to be feared and their bad reputation is largely unfounded. Like other foods, find the healthy carbs and enjoy them within reason.