Why We Need Carbs
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
By Julia Liber, Registered Dietitian
“Carbs are bad for you”
“To lose weight, I need to cut out carbs”
“I should not eat carbs past 8 PM, because if I do, I will get fat”
Sound familiar? This is what diet culture has been feeding us. Foods can be classified as “good” or “bad”. Being skinny is the goal, and to be skinny, we need to follow food rules, including when to eat, how much to eat, and what to eat. So based on the above statements, it seems that carbs are bad for you, and carbs should be listed in the list of forbidden foods.
Clients often come into my office with these preconceived notions, expecting me to congratulate them on doing their preliminary research. Often, I get the impression that clients expect me to elaborate on these statements, maybe hand them a list of foods they should avoid. Yet, to their surprise, this is not what I do.
Succeeding in life, including a journey to healthful nutrition is more than just following simple rules. Especially when some of these rules may be misleading. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. In today’s day and age with the internet, smartphones, and social media, there is a lot of information out there, and it is more accessible than it was ever before. Yet the downside of this is that numerous people are putting false information out there, and it is difficult to know what to believe.
Ok, so now that we established that much of the nutrition information we read on the internet is false and that there are no rules on how to eat, this may leave some feeling overwhelmed, confused, even helpless. How are we supposed to know what to believe?
Let's start from the beginning.
What are Carbs?
Carbs are short for carbohydrates. They are one of the three macronutrients, one of the nutrients which our bodies require in large amounts.
Where can I find carbs?
Carbs can be found in grains (such as bread, rice, pasta, bulgur, buckwheat), fruits, dairy products, as well as sweets. Sweets are any foods which contain large quantities of added sugars. This includes but is not limited to sugary drinks (iced tea, soft drinks), candy, cakes, cookies, and ice cream. Sweets are unlike grains, fruits, and dairy, which naturally contain sugars. Consuming a significant amount of added sugars can cause weight gain since sweets contain empty calories: they provide a lot of energy yet very little nutrition. Furthermore, these foods often don’t fill us up, and it thus not difficult to consume a large quantity of these foods.
How about the grains, fruits, and dairy products? Can those cause weight gain?
Eating a lot of these carbohydrate-rich foods may lead to weight gain, yet that would be the case for eating too much of the other macronutrients as well. Eating too much of anything can cause weight gain.
I was on a keto diet. After learning that carbs aren’t bad, I reintroduced them into my diet. Within a matter of days, I gained weight!
Ok, there was a weight gain. But a number on the scale does not say much, without looking at the bigger picture. There are three main compartments in our bodies, water (comprising roughly 70% of our weight), muscle, and fat. A rapid weight gain is usually attributed to water retention, rather than fat gain. When one reintroduces carbs into their diet, their bodies start retaining more water, since water is needed to store carbs in our bodies.
Finally, what do carbs do?
They are our main energy source! Our bodies are powerful machines, and they need the energy to fulfill their essential functions: your brain needs to be in power mode, you need to breathe, digest, eliminate, and so forth. Think of carbs as your body’s main source of fuel.
Finally, when consuming food sources of carbs, one is also consuming a variety of micronutrients, nutrients that our bodies need in smaller amounts. After all, one single food contains more than one nutrient. Typically, food sources of carbs contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and Magnesium, some of which are found in lower quantities in other food groups. By limiting carbs, you may be limiting these essential nutrients.
Now how can I incorporate carbs as part of a healthy diet? Which carbs are the best for me? What’s too much? What’s too little?
To find out more, get in touch today. Let me teach you how you can fit carbs as part of a healthy nutritious diet.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, August 31). Should you try the keto diet? Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-try-the-keto-diet
The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, or give specific medical advice. The information in this article is not intended as medical advice, medical nutrition therapy, or individualized nutrition. No content on this should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical or nutritional advice from your doctor or Registered Dietitian.