Why Carbs Are Not The Enemy
And why you don't need to be afraid
Are you afraid to allow yourself to eat carbs because you fear you’ll gain weight or you’ll feel out of control once you have them?
Carbs are often thought of as the “bad guy” when it comes to the 3 macronutrients — fats, proteins, and carbs. There are many unsubstantiated claims out there that can get stuck in your head, such as carbs make you gain weight, carbs cause diabetes, and sugar is addicting. This has led to a lot of fear around eating carbs– even carbs that are especially nutritious and good for us like fruit and whole grains.
If you find yourself also fearing carbs — this article is for you. We’ll address what you need to know so you can feel comfortable and confident incorporating carbs into your diet.
What foods are considered carbs
There are many foods that contain a small amount of carbohydrates, but the true carbohydrate-containing foods include breads, pasta, rice, whole grains such as farro, quinoa, oats, and barley, beans, starchy veggies like potatoes, corn, and squash, and fruit.
Sweets like cookies, cake, donuts, candy, and sweetened beverages like soda, juice, and sweetened coffees are also considered carbohydrates. However, not all carbs are created equal.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
Carbs can be broken up into 2 main categories — Simple and Complex. Simple carbs, or “refined” carbs, include sugar-sweetened cereals, beverages, cookies, candy, cakes, white bread, pasta, or white rice.
Complex carbs include whole-grain carbs like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pastas, grains like quinoa, farro, or barley, starchy vegetables like potatoes, beans, squash, and corn, as well as fruits.
According to the latest dietary guidelines, at least 50% of your grains should come from whole grains. Therefore, it is safe and can be added to every meal without anxiety or stress.
Why we need carbs
Carbs are your brain’s primary energy source. This is why it is very common when following a ketogenic or very low carbohydrate diet to experience brain fog, especially in the beginning. When your diet is very low in carbs, your brain is not able to access it’s primary energy source and therefore relies on ketones as a secondary, less preferred source.
Additionally, many carbohydrate-containing foods are healthy, nutritious foods. If we avoided many of the complex carbs noted above, our diet would be lacking on fiber and important vitamins to function optimally.
How to eat carbs and still meet your health goals
You can absolutely eat carbs at every meal and still meet your health goals. Pair your carbs with a good quality protein or healthy fat source and you will have longer-lasting energy.
Limiting carbs too much may cause brain fog, lack of energy and focus, and nutritional deficiencies. Make half of your carbs whole-food-based complex carbs and you will be on your way to a healthy, satisfying diet you can sustain.
Hi there! I’m Melissa, a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and Mindful Eating Coach.
I help women who are chronic dieters and struggle with emotional eating move away from restrictive habits that lead to vicious yo-yo weight cycles.
My approach to nutrition counseling is judgment-free. I help my clients by first determining the root cause of their eating habits, then addressing proper nutrition in order to create sustainable change. I incorporate mindful and intuitive eating practices in my sessions, and helps my clients get to a point of maintaining healthy habits consistently.
I practice in a small town called Milford in Connecticut, but since I primarily coach my clients online, I work with clients from all over the world.
When I’m not coaching, you can find me cooking, reading, and running outside — no matter what the weather.