Carbohydrates have been a bit of a hot potato (pardon the pun) in the fitness & health worlds for the last several years.
Which ones are good?
Which ones are bad?
Is a low-carb diet the healthiest?
Some will have you believe that carbs are the root problem of the obesity epidemics in the West whilst others will assure of their necessity as part of a balanced diet.
Here are a few things you need to know about carbohydrates to help you decide what is right for you.
1. Carbs Are Everywhere
Any food that is natural has carbohydrates.
Animals store energy as glycogen or fat, and plants store it as starch.
Living things require reserves to survive through rough times.
Be wary of anything touting zero carbs, because that means it’s highly processed.
2. There are Three Kinds
Sugars, starches, and fiber are all carbohydrates.
Sugars are found in fruit, milk, and processed goods.
Starches are found in vegetables like potatoes, corn, and pumpkin.
Fiber is found in vegetables like dark leafy greens, and is present in legumes, pulses, and whole grains.
3. All Carbohydrates are Not Equal
Your body doesn’t recognize “carbohydrate” as a label.
This category contains four different chemical groups: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.
Your body utilizes these in different ways. Some are health promoting, and some are not.
You can check nutrition labels to find out what kindof carbs you’re getting to make healthier decisions.
4. Moderate Carbohydrate Intake Seems Best for Longevity
A study of over 15,000 Americans over a 25 year period suggests that there is a Goldilocks range for how many carbs you should take it.
People whose carb intake accounted for 50-55% of their daily calories were the least likely to die during the quarter century study.
5. Cutting Carbs Helps You Lose Weight.
Research shows that low carb diets are excellent for weight loss.
Carb restriction leads to meals that leave you fuller, longer, reducing the need to count calories.
Only a very low carb diet—less than 50 grams a day—will put you into ketosis, which is what those on the keto diet aim for.
6. Carbohydrate = Fire Water
When you think fire water, you might conjure up an old timey picture of Native Americans talking about alcohol.
But carbohydrates are hydrates of carbon. Carbo- comes from the Latin word for coal (ker), which comes from the Proto-Indo-European name for fire.
Water (wed) has its roots in the same proto-language.
7. Sugar is Not the Most Quickly Digested Carb
We assess how quickly a carb burns by scoring it on the glycemic index, or GI.
The GI looks at how your blood sugar levels react to certain foods.
Fruit, which is full of sugar, scores lower on the GI than many starches, like white rice and instant oatmeal.
8. Carbohydrates Help Prevent Haemorrhoids
Got hemorrhoids? Eat fiber and stay hydrated.
Soluble fiber keeps stools soft and easier to pass and insoluble fiber keeps everything flowing through your body.
Fruits and vegetables usually have both. Beans, legumes, and nuts will give you the biggest fibre-bang for your calorie-buck.
9. Carbohydrates Help Athletic Performance
When you think sports, you probably think protein.
While protein helps you build and maintain muscle, it is not the best choice for fuelling muscles in a moment.
Research shows that carb consumption reduces fatigue and improves concentration. Timing carbs helps athletes be at their best.
10. Your Brain Loves Carbs
Although your brain takes up only 2% of your mass, it burns up about 20% of your calories.
Its favourite food?
Glucose, a simple sugar.
While your brain can get most of what it needs from other sources (ketones), sugar is the preferred fuel for your most important organ, and it functions better on carbs in the short term.
The more you know about carbs, the better informed you are to make the smarted choices to suit your needs & goals.
Keep these facts in mind when coming up with a macronutrient plan for yourself.