I’ve been working in the health, fitness & nutrition industry for over 7 years now and without fail, one thing I’ve heard too many clients say is ‘I’m cutting out carbs to lose weight or ‘I’m just cutting out carbs for a few weeks to see how I feel’. Hearing this always brings a fire to my belly, because as a society we’ve been conditioned to see carbohydrates as the enemy. The days’ of ‘low fat, low carb’ diets have a lot to answer for because one we fail to realise is that carbohydrates are our friends and are a part of a balanced and well-rounded diet. We need carbs for energy, for brain function, hormone production and a number of other bodily functions.
So, with this in mind, I wanted to share 4 things you may have not already known about carbohydrates (and why they’re absolutely not the enemy!) and in reality, why you can’t live without them!
Carbohydrates aren’t just found in bread
One common misconception about carbohydrates is that they must be found only in foods such as breads and pastas. This is false and great sources of nourishing carbohydrates are also found in whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans as well as fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas and sweet potato. It’s important to include a wide variety of these ‘complex carbohydrates’ in our diets every week so we can absorb the essential vitamins & minerals our body needs to function optimally.
‘Simple carbohydrates’ from processed foods such as doughnuts, pastries, deep fried foods and pre-packaged meals are the things we want to be consuming less of.
Carbohydrates are your brains preferred source of energy & fuel
Carbohydrates provide energy to the body by breaking down into short chain sugars during digestion and our brain relies exclusively on glucose from sugar/ carbohydrates to fuel it.
Glucose is the only form of fuel that the human body can use and when there’s a drop in blood glucose levels (aka, you’re not eating enough carbohydrates) you’ll begin to notice symptoms such as mind fog, dizziness, energy crashes, hunger and a loss of concentration.
Bottom line? Ensure you’re including rich sources of complex carbohydrates in your diet everyday!
Carbohydrates help you to feel sustained, nourished and fuller for longer
Have you ever noticed that when you finish a meal without carbohydrates you just don’t feel satisfied afterwards (and often, hungry not too long after)? We’re often told the benefits of protein & good fats being added into our meals to help us stay fuller for longer, but carbohydrates too help us do that! Why? Because complex carbohydrates are slowly broken down by the body to give us energy & we need them to function.
Generally too, complex carbohydrates are rich in dietary fibre, which provides feelings of fullness and satiety. You’ll also find that a number of carbohydrate based foods contain protein (which is also associated with fullness & satiety) such as lentils & beans and pulse pasta. As mentioned earlier, stick to including rich sources of whole, complex carbohydrates in your diet such as whole grain breads, brown rice, legumes, fruits & vegetables for optimal benefits.
Carbohydrates aren’t just used for energy; they’re so much more than that!
Along with being the primary source of energy for your body & brain, carbohydrates have a much larger role to play in your body. For instance, carbohydrates contribute to intercellular structure and provide the raw materials to produce our DNA. In addition, fibre (a type of carbohydrate) helps to promote great digestive health. Finally, it has been shown that a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates or protein can alter our hunger signals and potentially lead to over eating.
As you can see, carbohydrates are vital for so many things in our bodies and in our lives! For too long, they’ve been considered the bad guy & it’s time for us to start seeing them for what they are ‘the real hero’ of our diets. From energy production to helping us feel full & satisfied, to even providing the materials that create our DNA, be sure to include rich, complex carbohydrates in your diet at every chance you get. Remember, carbs are your friend!