Carbohydrates: Foe or Friend?
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the last few years. Many people think they’re the enemy, but that’s not true. Carbohydrates are actually good for your body—and an essential part of a healthy diet. They provide energy and nutrients and help keep you feeling full in between meals. Here’s everything you need to know about them: what they are, why they’re important, how they affect your body, and why you should NEVER skip them (unless medically necessary).
First off, what are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients, along with fat and protein. Carbohydrates are sugars and starches that can be broken down into simple glucose molecules. They’re found in fruits, vegetables, grains and milk (lactose). What’s important to remember about this is that carbohydrates provide your body with its preferred source of energy. When you eat carbohydrates, they’re broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose—this causes an increase in your blood sugar levels. Your pancreas releases insulin to help control this rise by escorting excess glucose out of your bloodstream so it can be used by cells as energy to perform their functions.
The average person needs about 40% of their calories every day in the form of carbohydrates to come from sources such as whole grains; fruits; starchy foods like potatoes; legumes such as beans or lentils; sweeteners like honey or maple syrup; milk products like yogurt or cheese; cereals such as muesli—or any combination thereof for optimal health!
What do carbohydrates do for you?
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and glucose is the body’s fuel. When you eat a carbohydrate-containing meal, your body breaks it down into glucose to circulate in your body. Then, your blood sugar (glucose) levels rise and your pancreas releases insulin to help move that glucose into your cells where it can be burned for energy. This process is what gives you energy to get through your day—just like when you put gas in a car: the fuel makes it go.
If this system functions properly, then everything should be fine. But sometimes things go wrong.
Too many processed carbohydrates can lead to a whole host of negative health issues such as increased risk of heart disease and diabetes due to insulin resistance and higher triglyceride levels. So, in short. Try to limit sugary beverages, white bread, candy, and other highly processed foods while focusing on whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
How does your body process carbohydrates?
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then absorbed by the blood and shuttled to cells throughout the body. Glucose is used as energy or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen (a short-term storage form of glucose). When you eat a meal with carbohydrates or starches, your body converts some of the excess calories into fat. This process can happen if you are inactive, but physical activity burns off extra energy faster than it’s being saved up as fat.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, and they’re stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. The average human can store about 400 grams of glycogen, which provide about 3,000 calories of energy.
One of the most efficient fuels for your body to use during exercise are carbohydrates because they’re easily broken down into glucose molecules that can be used by working muscles as fuel.
While they provide quick sources of energy for working muscles, carbs also have other important functions:
Carbohydrate-rich foods help you recover after exercise by rebuilding muscle tissue damaged during training sessions (like lifting weights). When it comes time to refuel after your workout, don’t just reach for a protein shake; add some carbs like fruits or whole grains to your post workout routine!
Should you cut back on carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. They provide energy, fiber and vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and potassium. The following foods are sources of carbohydrates:
- Grains (breads, pastas, rice)
- Dairy products
Since they contain such an enormous load of necessary micronutrients and our bodies use them as the preferred fuel source, you should absolutely not remove them from your diet unless you absolutely need to for medical reasons. Now, what you should absolutely do is reduce the amount of processed carbs you consume on a daily basis. Swap out tootsie rolls and donuts for an apple and a salad or a soda with water.
How much should you eat?
How much should you eat?
When it comes to diet, the very first and most important thing is to hit your protein needs. Carbs and fats are semi-interchangeable, but you should not avoid then because Bob or Sally down the road lost a lot of weight really quickly by cutting them out.
As a general rule, carbohydrates should be a part of every meal. They make up the bulk of your diet and play an important role in regulating blood sugar levels (provided you focus on whole foods and complex carbs instead of processed ones), which helps keep you healthy.
You can easily keep track of how much of your diet is made up by carbohydrates by using a macro tracker such as the 1st Phorm App, Cronometer, or even My Fitness Pal. Just enter all the foods you eat and these trackers generally will know the percentages of protein, carbs, and fats in each serving. Do it for a few days to a week without making any changes and review what you consume. Then you can modify your diet for the better!
Eat a healthy amount of carbohydrates unless you have a medical reason not to.
The most important thing to take away from this article about carbohydrates is that they are not the enemy. In fact, carbohydrates are actually good for you! Carbs provide energy and help with digestion, weight loss and heart health.
Second, unless you have a medical reason not to eat carbs (diabetes or other conditions), it’s best not to avoid them completely. Diabetics in particular will want to consult their doctor before making drastic changes in their diets because of how carbs impact blood sugar levels when you have trouble with insulin resistance.
Thirdly, remember that eating too many calories will make it harder for you to lose weight. So if your goal is shedding pounds but your stomach is still growling after a meal filled with protein-rich foods like chicken breast or salmon fillets topped with avocado slices (both excellent sources of lean protein and healthy fats!), try adding some whole grains like brown rice or quinoa into your next meal. Complex carbohydrate sources like fresh vegetables have fiber in them, which can help you feel fuller longer.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. They can help you lose weight, improve your mood, and lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes. They are found in foods like fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and even some dairy products. Carbohydrates may cause problems if they’re consumed in excess or if you have certain medical conditions like diabetes or celiac disease that require you to restrict them altogether. For most people though, eating a moderate amount of carbs every day is fine!
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