Carbohydrates have been the centre of bad press for some time now, which is a dangerous phenomenon based on misinformation and misconception. When did the word “carbs” evolve into a fear and guilt-evoking word? No such food has been so drastically polarized since the idea of pineapple in pizza. It’s time to break down the facts and break the stigma around eating carbs – and prove that healthy carbs deserve a regular spot in your eating regime.
But first, what actually are carbohydrates?
Let’s dumb it down. Carbohydrates are one of the three primary nutrients found in what we eat and drink. They come in three forms: sugar, starch and fibre. Once consumed it is broken down and utilized by our cells to produce energy and fuel our gut bacteria. Carbohydrates that are found in unprocessed, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, are known as complex carbohydrates. Those that have been processed and stripped of their original fibre and nutrient complex, are known as simple carbohydrates. These classifications indicate the chemical make-up of the carbohydrate and thereby how easy it is for the body to break it down.
Let’s get into the good stuff
Due to the fact they are unrefined, complex carbohydrates have a lot more nutritional value than simple carbohydrates. This means that the body takes longer to break them down, which keeps us fuller for longer whilst nourishing our bodies with nutrients. Where these factors are concerned, we suggested opting for the wholegrain (or brown) options of your favourite carby foods. Wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, bran and oats. Vegetables and legumes are also great sources of complex carbohydrates.
And for the bad stuff (or I should say, the moderation stuff)
Our simple carbs come in the form of white rice, bread and pasta. I shouldn’t say they are bad, but compared to their unrefined friend they are lacking in nutrients and will not keep us full for long. These, alongside sugary treats and drinks, are our friends in moderation!
So why do carbs need a place on our plate?
Carbs are the ultimate muscle and brain food.
Low and behold, our brain’s main source of energy. Cognitive functioning can take a serious hit when we are lacking in carbohydrates, leaving us with foggy brain, memory issues or difficulty concentrating. On top of this, our muscles access carbohydrates for fuel when we exercise, meaning without them our performance and progress could be compromised. Now I don’t know about you guys but none of that sounds ideal to me!
They are essential for a healthy digestive system.
The dietary fibre in many carbohydrate-foods aids in keeping things flowing well and is integral for general bowel health.
They are an energy booster!
Our body’s preferred source of energy is (drum roll)…carbohydrates. Didn’t see that one coming. The absence of carbs in our diet can mean the body resorts to using not only our fat stores, but our lean muscle mass for energy requirements. We don’t want this. Added bonus as well: carbs are often packed with our essential B vitamins, which are necessary for energy release!
Carbs make us happy!
It sounds like a generalization, but there are a few legitimate reasons for this. Nutritious carbs support a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn helps to generate our happy hormones. Combining healthy carbohydrates with proteins can also aid in producing serotonin in the brain – our feel-good hormone. (Check out our blog “Eat to Support Your Mental Health” for more on this!).
If you haven’t realized by now, carbohydrates are PIVOTAL for adequate bodily functions. Basically, choose your carbs wisely…but please choose them! They are not scary…carbs are our friend! Enjoying an appropriate balance of wholefoods and special carby treats will make our brains, bodies and hearts very happy!