Carbs have gotten a bad name in the past several years. Foods containing carbohydrates have been demonized to the point that people feel guilty for eating them. Guilt implies you did something wrong. You did not (even if you ate wheat which contains – gasp – gluten which is a protein).
Carbs are our body's favorite source of energy. Experts recommend that 50-60% of your total daily calorie intake come from carbs. Your nervous system (including your brain) and red blood cells can only use glucose (a type of carbohydrate) for energy.
If you have diabetes or other issues with regulating your blood sugar (glucose), carbs are essential. Sound backwards? Well, it's not. You need consistent amounts at regular intervals throughout the day which will keep your blood glucose stable and will "baby" your pancreas by giving it ample time to secrete the insulin needed for glucose to be taken up by your cells. A registered dietitan (RD) can help you figure out how much carbohydrate you need and how often you need it. Everyone has their own unique needs.
Let's get a few more things straight:
- Sugar does not cause diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or any other malady.
- Carbohydrates are not bad. Rather they are essential.
- You are not a bad person for eating carbs.
- Carbs don't make you fat.
- Your body needs carbs – several times a day – every day.
- Restricting carbs won't result in long-term weight loss. Initially you will likely lose some water weight as your body burns through it's stored carbohydrate (glycogen) which is stored in your body attached to water molecules. You will regain any weight lost when you resume eating carbs.
- Restricting carbs will also make you grumpy and more obsessed with food. You'll be more likely to overeat or binge.
In summary, carbs are useful, essential nutrients for your body that are turned into energy. Just fuel. So relax and incorporate them into your daily intake along with the other macronutrients – protein and fat. More on these tomorrow!
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