Carbs are the new villain for the media when it comes to obesity. For decades fat was though to cause obesity and now the focus has shifted to Carbs. Are carbs really that bad for you? In this article we will find out more on this topic.
Carbs are one of the three macro nutrients. There are three major macro nutrients – Protein, Fats and Carbs. Out of these Carbs are the single most important food. It is also the most prevalent food. Without Carbs you won’t last long. Carbs give us ready to use energy. They are our primary energy source.
Carbs are also important since they are important source of fiber and special chemicals called phytonutrients which keep you healthy and keep your metabolism up.
Carbs are not that evil as it is made out to be. For example Atkins diet, South beach diet or Paleo diets have painted the carbs in a very bad light. You need carbohydrate for energy, but the problem is most people consume way more carbs than they require.
Why Glycogen in Important?
Our body stores carbs as Glycogen in the Liver and the muscles. When you do not have enough glycogen stored in your body and do some heavy exercise of or strenuous activity you will feel fatigued. You will also have more difficulty recovering from the fatigue. Our body can use glycogen as energy source very fast and efficiently.
As mentioned above our body converts the carbs into glycogen hence carbs does have its importance. But the important thing to remember is not all carbs are equal.
Why Not All Carbs Are Equal
Before we answer this question, you should know that there are two categories of carbs. Simple and Complex. Our body can digest simple carbs very fast but complex carbs take more time to digest. Apart from the digestion speed there is another factor which affects our health. This factor is the blood sugar spike when we consume these two types of carbs.
Simple Carbs consists of basic sugar and add very little nutritive value to your body. Examples of simple sugars are sweets and sugary drinks.
But that does not mean you would never need simple carbs. All of need these simple carbs sometimes. But we do not need on daily basis. Usually sugary drinks or simple carbs increase the craving for more sugars.
The reason simple carbs are bad is because they spike your blood sugar levels rapidly. Our body releases a hormone called insulin to take off the sugar from the blood. Insulin can cause the sugar in the blood to be converted into body fat.
Examples of Simple Carbs
- Sugary drinks and sodas
- Table sugar
- Foods which contain processed carbs and sugars such as cakes, ice creams
- White bread
- Most baked foods
- High fructose Corn Syrup
Your body digests and absorbs them slower than simple carbs, making complex carbs a great long-term sustainable energy for your body. Another reason complex carbs are good is they contain dietary fiber. They are usually better source of various minerals and vitamins.
Examples of Complex Carbs
- Various vegetables
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat bread
- Many fruits
Why Simple Carbs (Highly Processed) Are Bad
Our bodies are not designed to digest highly processed carbohydrates. They slow down our metabolism. In fact most diseases related to aging and other metabolic diseases are caused by highly processed carbohydrates. These disease include diabetes high blood pressure, obesity and heart diseases.
That is why it it important to have balance foods which include complex carbs, good fats and proteins. Some of the foods which contains these are coconut, avocado, nuts like almonds, beans such as black bean, kidney beans and many vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cauliflowers.
To put things in perspective fruits like oranges are blueberries are full of nutrition, fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are extremely healthy for out body. But if we extract the sugar from these fruit which is fructose then do you think it is healthy. Not it is not. Fructose by itself in not real food and not healthy. In fact it is toxic for your body.
Honey is sweet but it is real food since it also contains many other nutrients rather than just sugar. Real food provide us more nutrients and fiber. For example brown rice is healthier than white rice since it contains more fiber and other nutrient as it is less polished.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Day?
This is a very common question asked by many people who are health conscious. There are many opinions on this topic. For example some say that you should eat totally carbs free diet such as Ketogenic diet (although ketogenic diet does allow some carbs), while some others say that you should be eating more carbs and low fat diet.
The answer to this question is – It depends on your body type and health goals. But if you are average person who consumes between 1600 to 2000 calories you should consume around 40% of calories in Carbs. That is if you are a active person. In that case you should also get 30% from protein and around 30% from fat.
Some other people may need to take more fat if you want to burn fat and take more protein if you are looking for more muscles.
In general you should take between 500 to 800 calories from fat. For that you would need around 120 to 200 grams of carbs per day. It is good for both burning fat and good overall health.
If you are eating healthier foods such as brown rice as compared to white rice you can consume more carbs as it will be digested slowly hence sugar will be release slowly into the blood stream. While the white rice will turn into sugar almost immediately.
How to know if you are consuming right amount of Carbs
The best way to see if you are eating right is to maintain a food diary. Write everything you eat in the diary for a week. Then see how you are responding. Are you losing weight or gaining weight. Are you having more or less energy. Based on this you can then change what your should eat.
More than the quantity it is the quality of food that matter. If you eat more fruits, vegetable and nuts along with good fats then you can eat much more food with the need to count the calories of fear of getting sick. You will be healthier and more energetic in that case.
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