It’s the famous go-to weight loss diet that we’ve all heard of and it’s time to dispel some of the common misconceptions. First, what are carbohydrates? Carbs are one of the three “macronutrients”, the other two are protein and fat. Carbs can be further classified as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’.
Complex carbohydrates are those that don’t spike our blood sugar. When we consume complex carbs our bodies break them down at a steady rate, we digest them over time – not all at once. These are often the kinds of carbs we consume in their unprocessed, natural state; these are the carbs in fruits, vegetables and grains. Because these foods are in their natural state, they have not gone through various processing methods and therefor contain many essential vitamins and minerals.
On the other side of the coin are the “simple” carbs. These are the kinds of carbs found in processed, refined foods, such as white bread and in processed snack foods and beverages (pastries, crackers, chocolate bars, soft drinks). These foods are often stripped of their nutrients during processing, therefore they are often high in calories and low in fiber and other nutrients.
Our busy lifestyles have left many of us reaching for easy, convenience items. More and more over the last few decades we’ve become more accustomed to consuming these simple carbohydrates. Think of the average potato and the options we have for eating that potato: potato chips, French fries, hash browns… just to name a few. How often do we eat a baked potato and leave the skin on? It is our need for “right now” and reaching for those quick hunger fixes that have led to the general conclusion of popular media and fad-diets that carbs are bad.
The bottom line is that many of us are consuming our carbs from junk food or in grains that are so refined that we have to re-add all the nutrients that we took away during their processing.
The solution? Don’t cut out carbs; make healthy choices. Enjoy whole grains, experiment with quinoa, couscous and bulgur. Enjoy whole grain cereals, such as oats and wheat bran and switch a whole grain bread, and whole wheat pasta. Restricting carbs will only leave you feeling deprived, lethargic, a little confused and you’ll likely have a headache.
Why? Our brain uses just one kind of nutrient for fuel: carbohydrates.