The Truth About Carbs
“I would like a bunless burger and instead of fries can I have an extra meat patty and a diet soda, please?” This sounds like the perfect carbless meal, but just how healthy is it for your body? Are all carbs bad? For almost two decades, it was fat that was bad, and the non-fat, low-fat food industry was unstoppable. However, in the last few years a new diet craze has taken over. Fats are the new golden food, and carbohydrates have taken their place as the food to not have in your house or your body. Does this mean that all the “scientifically proven” information and endless studies on high-fat diets causing heart damage, high-cholesterol, high-blood pressure, and of course excess weight were all false? If all the research and studies were false, then how can we trust the new studies that say carbs are bad and fats are good?
It’s time to do a little research of our own to figure out just what our bodies need to stay strong and healthy!
For all of those people who struggled with their weight and health on any number of the “low-fat” diets, you may want to look back and consider how many carbs you were eating. Too many carbs can cause blood sugar issues and weight gain.
For all of those people who are struggling with their weight and health on any number of the “low-carb” diets, you may want to look back and consider how much fat you were eating. Too much fat can cause heart disease and weight gain.
When looking at these two statements, there is a key piece of information: “too many” and “too much.” You can research any food you want, no matter how healthy, and find that “too much” will harm you. Too much spinach not only can give you gastric distress like bloating and gas. It is also high in oxalate which may lead to kidney stones. Too much lean animal protein can increase aging and your risk for cancer. “...there was a four-fold increase in cancer-related death risks and a 75 percent increase in overall mortality in people who got at least 20 percent of their calories from lean animal protein.”(1) Drinking too much water in a short quantity of time can lead to hyponatremia and even death!
Suffice to say that too much of even a good thing can make it bad!
So where does this leave us in the fats vs. carbs conundrum?
It’s time to look at macronutrients. According to the Oxford dictionary, macronutrients are a type of food required in large amounts in the diet. For us humans, the macronutrients are proteins, fats, AND carbs! The body needs all three to survive, and it needs them in fairly balanced quantities to operate at its highest level. So any diet which claims that one of these three should be eliminated in large part or in its entirety simply cannot be a long-term, and for some of us even a short-term, way of living. Eating plans which cut any of these out are simply not a healthy option for anyone because at the end of the day, we can all find a “scientific” article backing the diet we want to try.
What we truly need is to listen to our bodies. This means getting blood tests for your sugar, cholesterol, and hormones. Checking your blood pressure. Going for regular doctor visits to check for cancer, heart disease, or risk factors. Monitoring how you feel when you eat certain foods, and choosing a diet that leaves you energized and feeling good. Most disease begins in the gut as this is where the majority of the immune system is housed as well as what nourishes our cells on every level. So what we choose to put into our bodies is one of the most powerful factors in how well our bodies perform and last. This means choosing the very best foods to represent all three macronutrients in our diet.
Carbohydrates are made up of starches, sugar, and fiber. They are then categorized as simple or complex. Simple carbs tend to be the type we should eat less of as these are your sugary food choices. They are not necessarily bad as they include certain fruits, vegetables, dairy, and honey. As is the moral of this dietary journey, moderation is key. Complex carbs are your whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and certain fruits and vegetables. These often have a higher fiber count and are best enjoyed as unprocessed as possible.
Carbs are necessary to the function and health of your body! They are the primary fuel and energy source for most of your basic metabolic processes, including but not limited to, brain function, muscle contraction, processes in your central nervous system, fat metabolism, energy storage, and so much more. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose which is what feeds all of your cells! That’s some really important work. Which is why cutting carbs causes such havoc in the body, such as extreme fatigue, headaches, and physical weakness. The body is an incredible and resilient organism which can survive in times of extreme carb reduction by converting fats to ketones; however, this is a survival mode and not meant to be a lifestyle.
Fats also play their role and are broken down into two categories like carbohydrates: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats like butter, cheese, fatty meats, bacon, sausages, cake, and processed desserts are the types of fat you want to avoid to help protect your heart and longevity. Unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds are good for your body and should be included as part of a balanced diet. They help provide certain essential fatty acids that your body cannot make itself. Fat also helps with vitamin absorption, cellular health, and energy levels.
Protein seems to be the only macronutrient everyone can agree on, even if we can’t decide how much is actually needed. The bare minimum would be starting your day with some Cinnamon Protein Crunchies and perhaps a bag of Mesquite BBQ stix with lunch.
In fact, determining how much your body needs of each macronutrient tends to be an extremely controversial conversation. Why? Because we are all different. Our energy needs are different, our lifestyles are different, and even how our bodies utilize food is different. Now you have the basic facts about how your body uses food and why it needs all three macronutrients. Next, you must determine your perfect ratio. According to the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR), this starts with choosing how many calories you need to eat during a day. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, for people over the age of 19, protein should comprise 10-35% of your total calories, fats 20-35%, and carbohydrates 45-65%. (2)
These ranges are wide and varied for a reason. We each respond differently to different distributions of nutrients. The only agreement is that healthy, whole grain carbs should make up the majority of your plate! So start finding your body’s perfect balance.