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Carbs: What are they good for?

fresh bread & vegetables

Carbohydrates have a serious PR problem.

As part of National Nutrition Month®, we’re going back to the basics, starting off with carbs!

Many people are convinced that the only way to lose weight is to cut out carbohydrates.

But what is a carbohydrate, why do we need them, and what do they do in our bodies?

What is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients; protein and fats are the other two.

A wide range of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants can be found in carbohydrates.  But perhaps most importantly, carbohydrates provide us with energy.

The body needs a certain amount of energy to function, and glucose is the preferred form.  If the body doesn’t get enough energy from carbohydrates, it goes into ketosis, an inefficient way of turning fat into usable energy.

This can lead to feelings of lethargy, weakness, fatigue, digestive issues, dehydration, and fogginess.

Carbohydrates are classified in three categories: sugars, starches, and fiber.

Carbs: Sugar

Sugars can occur naturally, as in fruit and dairy products, or are added sugars, like those found in baked goods.  Fruit also provides other nutrients and fiber to balance the load of sugar that enters the blood stream.

But added sugars are “empty calories,” providing an overabundance of energy all at once that the body converts into fat because it’s too much to digest all at once.

Thus it is the empty calories in added sugars that can lead to weight gain.  That’s why the new nutrition facts label will now include added sugars, so you can easily see what’s been added to your foods.

variety of beasn & seedsCarbs: Starch

Starches include beans, starchy vegetables, like potatoes, peas, and corn; and include whole grains, like brown rice, barley, and oats.

Starches include a wide range of minerals and vitamins and usually have fiber and some protein in them.

Starchy vegetables are energy-dense, but provide fiber and nutrients to help fill you up.

Refined grains are where the problems come from.

Things like white rice, white flour, or quick-cooking oats, are processed, usually resulting in less fiber and fewer B vitamins.  This means you’re getting less nutrition, feel less satiated, and eat more calorie-rich food.

healthy milk yogurt fruits & vegetablesCarbs: Fiber

Fiber is included in most carbohydrates unless they have been processed.

Fiber helps fill you up, and keeps your digestive tract moving.  Soluble fiber has also been shown to lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Be sure to check out Sweet Life Wellness’s recent post on fiber!

Part of a balanced diet

Carbohydrates should definitely be part of a balanced diet, but the type of carbohydrates matters.

Aim to get most of your carbohydrates from whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans (legumes), low-fat and non-fat dairy, and whole grains.  This will provide you with the most nutrients and fiber.

Remember, fruits and vegetables should fill half your plate, and a third of your plate with grains.

How do you incorporate whole food carbohydrates in your lifestyle?

Let us know on the Sweet Life Wellness Facebook Page!

If you have more questions about carbohydrates, have a talk with Kay.

Call to book your complimentary coaching call with Kay today at:  301-869-1787

Blog Author:Lauren Seat - Sweet Life Wellness Intern
Lauren Seat
Sweet Life Wellness Student Intern
Dietetics student at University of Maryland-College Park

(2015c) All about the Grains Group. In: Choose MyPlate. Accessed 1 Mar 2017 
Carbohydrates: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 Mar 2017
Hanan M The Role of Wholegrains in Weight Management – Dietetically Speaking. Accessed 8 Mar 2017
Palsdottir H, MS (2016) Is Ketosis Safe and Does It Have Side Effects? In: Authority Nutrition. Accessed 8 Mar 2017
What is Fiber? In: Accessed 14 Mar 2017