Recently I’ve gotten a lot of questions about carbohydrates: are they good are they bad and are they necessary. Whereas fat used to be the enemy, it’s quite clear that carbohydrates have come in to take its place. Many popular diets adopt an anti-carbohydrate policy especially when it comes to breads and grains, but are carbohydrates really that bad for you?
Have you ever noticed that when you get hungry, you generally crave carbohydrates first? That’s because the food group is vital for fueling your muscles. Carbs are converted to glycogen, which is stored in muscle to fuel workouts and every day activities. It’s the easiest for your body to convert into glycogen and is food for your brain. I never recommend cutting out carbs completely. Men and women who are strength training at least twice a week need at least half of their calories from carbohydrates per day.
A common point of confusion also comes with what types of food contain carbs. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, dairy, grains, and some starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, legumes). Grains (i.e. bread) seem to have the worst reputation. I can’t tell you how many times I hear grumbles from the group during store tours as we approach the bread aisle but the truth is whole grains provide a wealth of benefits. A higher intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. And while many people avoid carbs because they think it makes them fat, research has suggested that a higher intake of whole grains has been associated with reduced weight gain. Cutting carbs may work short-term but in the long run it generally only yields modest weight loss.
Take note that not all carbs are created equal and carbs can be the enemy if all you’re eating is candy and cookies, but including whole grains, fruits, and dairy can improve your health. I hope this sheds some light on the carb-phobia and encourages you to welcome carbs back with open arms!
Aside from fruit and dairy, here are some whole grains to try:
- Brown rice or wild rice
- Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
- Shredded wheat cereal