Carbohydrates have got a bit of a bad rep. Between the Keto diet and the Atkins diet a lot of people believe that carbohydrates are the major fact in weight gain. Obesity in the western world has become an epidemic and it’s unsurprising that many people are looking to alternative diets in order to help them lose a few pounds. But do the arguments against carbohydrates hold any weight?
Let’s take a closer look at carbs.
How Does Your Body Use Carbs?
When you eat a meal, that meal will consist of three basic food groups: protein, fat and carbohydrates. If you’re eating a balanced diet your body will break down protein into amino acids, fat into fatty acids and carbohydrates into glucose. The word glucose might seem a little scary at first, aren’t we told that eating sugar is bad? This process is normal and healthy, glucose is the body’s main source of energy and is designed to process carbs this way.
When you eat, the carbohydrates you consumed will be used by your body as energy. Some of it will be stored in your liver for release between mealtimes should your blood sugar levels drop below a certain point and any excess glucose will be stored as fat.
Remember that fat on the human body isn’t always a bad thing, we need some fat on the body to survive. You don’t gain weight by eating carbohydrates you gain weight if you’re eating more calories than you’re burning off. The human body needs calories even if you’re just lying down all day because there are thousands of different processes happening in your body that need energy. Carbohydrates and calories aren’t bad they’re your body’s fuel.
There are also different types of fat that exist in and on the human body: visceral fat and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that you are aiming to lose if you want to lose weight. It’s largely harmless and is mainly carried around the stomach, particularly as people age. Visceral fat is the fat that we cannot see and lies around your organs, this is much more dangerous to your health.
When excess glucose is stored as fat, it is stored as subcutaneous fat, not visceral. So we can conclude that an excess of carbohydrates won’t directly result in poor health.
But aren’t there different types of carbs?
“Good” Carbs vs. “Bad” Carbs
As with all food there are carbs that are better for you than others and it’s mainly down to the fibre. Carbs high in fibre and other nutrients will help your body release energy slowly, you will feel fuller for longer and if you don’t eat again until you’re peckish less glucose will be stored as fat in the body.
Eating carbohydrates that have been heavily processed means that you aren’t getting the most out of the carb you are eating. Not only does it strip away fibre but it can also strip away vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body.
Fibre is only present in plant foods and as such a whole foods plant-based diet that includes a lot of unprocessed carbohydrates will allow your body to function in the way that it needs to. It’s not only grains and starchy vegetables that contain carbohydrates, all fruit and veg contains some sort of carbohydrates and so including a variety of these foods in your diet will lead to positive heath benefits.
If you’re trying to avoid carbs that are less nutritious then stay away from anything made with white flour and white rice as they have been through a bleaching process/had their husks removed.
So, eat your greens and carb up!
Image Credit: Forks Over Knives