What are Carbohydrates? Are They Bad for You?

No, carbs aren’t inherently bad (more on this below).

Carb is short for carbohydrates. Carbs are one of the three main macronutrients in the diet. Macro, as in large, means they’re large components of your diet. Just like protein and fat, carbs give us the energy we need for optimal health. Most foods contain two if not all three of these essential macronutrients.

Carbs can definitely be part of a healthy diet. They’re found in many foods that are full of other nutrients like essential vitamins and minerals. Just like fats and proteins, carbs can also be found in nutrient-poor low-quality foods. Medline Plus says, “It is best to get most of your carbohydrates from whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables instead rather than refined grains. In addition to calories, whole foods provide vitamins, minerals, and fibre.”

Similar to other macronutrients, carbs have calories. Eating or drinking too many carbs can add to your daily calorie count — especially if they’re not found foods that are rich in other nutrients.  Some types of carbohydrates raise blood sugar faster than other carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates Come in 3 Different Shapes and Sizes

    • Sugars (found in juices, dairy, sodas, desserts, etc.) are the smallest and are the main type of “fuel” used by your body for energy
    • Starches (found in potatoes, grains, legumes, etc.) are broken down into sugars which then go on to be used for energ
    • Fibre (found in legumes, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc.) provides bulk that helps us feel full and feeds our friendly gut microbes

If you eat carbs as starches it takes a bit more time for them to be broken down into sugars so their effect on your blood sugar level is slower and lasts longer.  Fibres, on the other hand, aren’t digested by us, but rather help us feel full and contribute to a healthy gut by feeding our friendly gut bacteria.Next time you wonder why are carbs bad, remember, there are healthy and not-so-healthy low-carb foods. As for proteins, it’s best to get them from vegetable sources like beans, nuts and seeds. Poultry, fish, dairy, eggs are better bets than red meats like pork and beef.  This meal from EATlove has 36 g of healthy carbohydrates.

Consequences of a Low Carbohydrate Diet

Be careful when you restrict any major food group, like carbs, for example. This is because you may be restricting key vitamins or minerals. This can lead to deficiencies and long-term concerns like bone loss, gut problems, and chronic diseases. 

Because low-carb diets are restrictive cause you to be craving carbs and may not provide all necessary nutrients, this diet isn’t recommended for adolescents or pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Most of the research on low-carb diets is short-term, so we don’t know all the possible health effects of eating like this over the course of many months or years. It’s possible that by eating too much animal food you may increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

If you make drastic changes to your diet you may experience headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, skin rashes, cravings carbs and digestive upsets. Keep an eye out for these and consult an expert if you experience them, and if you need to optimize your diet; get started with a discovery call with a Registered Dietitian today.

If you restrict carbs too much you can change your body’s metabolism and put it into ketosis. This is because your body uses glucose from carbohydrates as its main energy source, so when you don’t get a minimum amount of carbs, your body’s metabolism changes to start using fat as its energy source.

If you end up craving carbs, experiencing gut issues or other bothersome symptoms, or simply don’t enjoy eating anymore, a low-carb diet may not be the best one for you.

By using my Free FLEX plan get that perfect balance of carb in your diet.

First, know that if you’re trying to lose weight, low-carb is one of many diets that can help you—at least for a short time. It may take experimentation to find the right one for your genes, metabolism, and lifestyle. It’s very difficult to stick to a diet for the long-term, so finding one that works for you is key or sign up for your discovery call with a registered dietitian.

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