People often hear carbohydrates are the enemy of nutrition and weight loss. However, that belief is not 100% true — the reality is far more complex. Carbs provide essential and rapid energy for your brain, muscles, and metabolism. It’s not just in sugar and starches but also grains, fruits, and vegetables.
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Do You Need to Avoid Carbohydrates?
No, because they give the body glucose to convert into energy, which can support physical activity and bodily functions. Instead of focusing on the amount of carbohydrates you take daily, it should be more about what kind of carbohydrates you consume. But first, learn more about its benefits.
1. They Regulate Mood
Have you ever noticed difficulty concentrating or feeling irritable whenever you’re extremely hungry? Those are the common symptoms when you have low blood sugar levels, but they can effectively regulate with the right amount of carbohydrates. They play a vital role in maintaining and restoring normal sugar levels in your body.
2. They Stimulate Brain Function
Glucose — which comes from carbohydrates — is considered a fuel for your brain. It helps you perform mental processes such as cognitive function, memory retention and concentration.
3. They Promote Healthy Digestion
Carbohydrates that contain high levels of fiber help absorb essential nutrients. They act as a natural sponge, absorbing water and adding bulk to your stool, which helps you regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Carbohydrates in Cooking
Carbohydrates are in many things in your kitchen — both healthy and unhealthy. They’re present in bread, milk, popcorn, beans, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, soy milk, tofu, lentils, black beans, and other food choices.
Types of Carbohydrates
There are two main kinds of carbs — simple and complex. Both of these give your body the energy it needs, but one is healthier than the other. Think of it this way — simple carbs are usually added to foods, while complex are found more in nutritious foods.
- Simple Carbohydrates
The body breaks down these fast-acting carbs quickly and uses them as an energy source. This type of carb is in some dairy products, fruits, and in processed foods which come in the form of refined sugars. For example, cakes, white sugar, soda and baked goods.
Refined sugar — a simple carbohydrate — absorbs in the body rapidly, which can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar level increases, it can increase the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Another thing to note is when you consume foods high in refined sugar. It can trigger cravings that lead to more calorie intake.
- Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates have longer chains of sugar molecules, making them more intricate than simple carbs. This type of carbohydrate requires more effort for the body to digest, leading to a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream. As a result, insulin levels remain moderate, avoiding the levels associated with storing body fat.
Complex carbs are ideal for weight management and gut health. In addition, food rich in complex carbs usually has high levels of dietary fiber that contribute to feeling full.
Common Carbohydrates in Cooking
You might be surprised at how common carbohydrates are in the ingredients and food you consume or eat. However, you don’t have to worry because these carbs benefit your body.
Flours come in different forms, such as whole wheat, all-purpose, and specialty flours like coconut. It’s a key ingredient when making doughs, cakes, and pastries. Most flours are high in fiber, protein, and Vitamins B and E.
Rice is part of many cultures worldwide and can come in the form of fluffy basmati rice, sticky sushi rice, or creamy risotto. It usually contains magnesium and phosphorus, which is good for bone health and metabolism.
Pasta is a common favorite — especially among food lovers who like lasagna, spaghetti, or ravioli. Most kinds of pasta are high in fiber, which helps with healthy digestion. Usually, pasta goes with protein-rich foods like meat, legumes, and cheese.
Potatoes are a crowd favorite because you can cook them in different ways like mashed, baked, hash browns, or potato chips. They also have fiber, proteins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6.
This is an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and Vitamins C, E and K. Legumes can be used in cooking chickpea curry or black bean salad.
Debunking Carbohydrate Myths
It is inevitable that the media has changed the way you think about carbs. Some might be true but some might be misleading. This is the perfect time to investigate those myths and check out what’s really true.
1. Carbs Are the Only Cause of Weight Gain
It might be true that excessive consumption of sugary treats and refined carbohydrates can cause weight gain, but it’s important to remember they are not the only cause. Overall calorie intake is important, but knowing the quality of food you consume should be the higher priority.
2. You Should Limit Your Carb Intake
When you restrict your body of carbs, you also limit yourself from the vital nutrients they give, which help you function properly. You must make informed choices and be knowledgeable about the right carbs to consume. Good carbohydrates include vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
3. Carbs are Hard to Control
It’s all about being mindful and balancing the quality and quantity of your carbs intake. For example, you can choose nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potatoes, and whole grains over refined options like sugary cereals, white bread, or processed snacks.
Statistics have shown the average adult should get 45% to 65% of their total daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. These results emphasize the importance of a well-rounded diet and practicing portion control. Not only that, but you also have to pair carbs with lean proteins and colorful vegetables that support optimal health.
Carbs Are Good After All
Carbs — especially complex ones — do benefit you. They give you the energy you need throughout the day — especially when you’re doing tasks requiring attention and concentration. But remember that your meals’ overall composition and quality matter the most. You can enjoy the benefits of carbohydrates without worrying about weight gain.