Carbohydrates have gone from simple nutrient to weight loss public enemy number one. Many dieters believe they have to give up carbs to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Missing from this simple view is that carbohydrates contain essential nutrients and provide energy the body needs. It’s not what you eat that matters, but how smart you eat.
What are carbohydrates?
There are three main types of carbohydrates:
- Starch carbs, such as beans, grains, and starchy vegetables (think corn or potatoes)
- Sugar carbs, which are naturally occurring sugars in milk or fruit, as well as added sugars
- Fiber carbs are the indigestible part of plant foods, such as the skin of an apple or fruit with edible seeds
Why we need carbs?
Our body goes to three main energy sources when it needs fuel:
All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar or glucose, which fuels our bodies. These sugars give us a faster boost of energy than the slower-working protein or fat. In fact, carbs are the first thing our bodies grab for energy.
The bottom line: We need carbohydrates to fuel our body. Without them, we lose our first source of energy, leaving us feeling tired, sluggish, and sick to our stomachs.
The best carbs to eat
When people decide to “cut carbs,” they are usually referring to pasta and bread made from white flour as well as processed baked goods and cereals. These foods give you quick energy without any added nutritional benefits and are not your best choices for weight loss and maintenance.
There are many delicious and healthy carbohydrates that provide needed nutrition along with powerful energy, including:
- Starchy carbs, such as peas, corn, lima beans, potatoes, black beans, 100% whole-grain bread and pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and barley
- Sugar carbs, including oranges, kiwis, apples, bananas, low-fat milk, and honey
- Fiber carbs, for example, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
Losing weight is based on creating an imbalance of calories going in versus calories going out. If you burn more than you eat, you should lose weight. Instead of tracking carbs, track your calories, move your body more, and watch the weight come off. Focus on eating healthy, nutritious whole grains; getting plenty of fiber; and consuming natural sugar through fruits. The rest will fall into place.