We’ve probably all heard at some point in our lives that carbohydrates (carbs) are bad right?
They have been demonized as being one of the worst foods for your health and when we consume them, they are accompanied by a whole lot of shame, instilled by none other than, diet culture!
Food sources of carbs are often the most avoided by my clients. When I asked what type of myth busting content you guys would like to learn more about on social media, carbs won by a land slide, which is not surprise!
So, just to make it clear. Carbs are NOT bad! I am going to talk about WHAT carbohydrates actually are, so that you can better understand how to include them in your diet (aka nutrition lifestyle) in a helpful and supportive way.
A carb is a macronutrients which essentially translates to “large nutrient”. Unlike vitamins and minerals, which are micronutrients, our bodies need macronutrients in larger amounts. So, we need to eat a lot more macros to make sure our body is working at baseline!
There are three types of macronutrients which include carbohydrates, protein and fat. All of these play an essential role in how our body functions on a daily basis by providing our organs, our muscles and our cells with energy and by producing other characters important in our metabolism.
Our bodies need all three of these types of carbs in order to function properly. They each have their own benefits so having variety means that your body will benefit from their unique qualities!
Carbs are our body’s preferred source of fuel. So, at any time and place, our body will always choose carbs as its primary source of fuel over anything else.
All types of carbohydrates are broken down into an energy source called “Glucose”. This is how our cells use the food we eat to actually give us energy.
By having enough energy, this means that our organs, our brains and our personalities can shine through to its full potential!
“We need carbs to thrive, not just survive!”
Ah yes, the question everyone wants to know the answer to. So, there is no 1 set number for everyone and truthfully, this may change from day to day.
What we do know for sure is that our brain alone needs 150 grams of glucose per day to perform at its minimal function. So just to stay alive in a well, our brain needs 150 grams, that is like 10 slices of bread, that only our brain eats, and that’s not even counting, taking care of all the other organs.
When we eat more carbs than our body needs, our body will easily put them into glycogen stores, which we find in our muscles and our liver. Our muscles and our liver will take all that extra energy for future use. Your body is SO SMART! It knows to have an emergency kit packed and ready to go in case something happens, and it needs to protect you.
Your body will start to transform other nutrients into glucose, such as protein and fat through a process called Gluconeogenesis. Although this is another pretty cool system that our body has in place in case of emergencies, it’s important to remember the long term effects of your body using protein and fat as energy. Although they can provide energy as one of their roles, they also have other duties to fulfill. They can’t be covering all of the carbs tasks plus their own tasks, they will literally burn out! Your body will not allow you to not have carbs.
So if you’re someone who has tried to restrict carbs, and you find yourself always craving carbs, that is literally just your body functioning well. It makes sense. All bodies love carbs and if you’re restricting, your body will only scream louder to try and get what it wants
Carbs are bad for our health
Contrary to popular beliefs, carbs are essential to good health. There is no one food that will make you unhealthy. For example, eating a doughnut does not make me unhealthy and neither does eating 30 doughnuts per day. It’s not the actual food, but the behavior that repeats itself overtime that may not be supportive to our health.
Carbs make you gain weight
Blaming one particular food for it is just wrong. There are so many reasons why people gain weight and enjoy eating carbohydrate. Remember, this is your body’s preferred source of fuel, so if anything, avoiding it, restricting it and then falling into the diet cycle is a better predictor of weight gain than eating carbs.
So, do we really not need any carbs?
Remember this information next time you question yourself on whether or not you should be eating carbohydrates! Debunk the common beliefs that diet culture has instilled in us.
Let’s take this food rule out of the equation and enjoy yourself some nice carbs!
Check out my podcast episode “Food Myth Debunked: Carbohydrates” where I talk about why carbohydrates are demonized and how to start viewing them in a more neutral way!
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice