Carbohydrates have taken quite the beating lately and in the last couple of years low carb diets have taken over.

But why are carbohydrates seen as bad?

Before we answer that question first we have to understand why people blame carbohydrates for making us fat. Check out the information below to learn the truth about carbohydrates.


Macronutrient Breakdown:

Carbohydrates : 4 Calories Per Gram

  • Can be split into 3 groups: sugars, starches, fibers
  • Can be broken down into complex carbs (contain fiber) and simple carbs (no fiber)

  • Contain essential vitamins and minerals for immune health

  • Triggers the release of insulin which delivers nutrients to cells

Insulin

  • Fat, protein and carbohydrate intake releases insulin from the pancreas

  • Simple carbohydrates elevate insulin the most followed by complex carbohydrates

  • A high protein intake can also release insulin (27)

Insulin Pros

  • Inhibits muscle protein breakdown which causes muscle growth

  • Delivers nutrients to cells by unlocking them

  • Reduces cortisol levels and improves mood by increasing serotonin levels

Insulin Cons

  • Turns off your body’s ability to burn fat (hormone sensitive lipase) (28)

  • Too much insulin can lead to insulin resistance and eventually type II diabetes

Fiber

  • Humans have ten times more bacteria than human cells (29)

  • Fiber strengthens the immune system and prevents certain diseases by feeding the good bacteria in the gut microbiome (30)

  • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Complex/Cellular Carbs (Starches/Fibers)

  • Contain fiber which aids digestion by feeding the bacteria in the gut

  • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease (31)

  • Should make up the majority of your carbohydrate consumption

Simple/Noncellular Carbs  (Sugars)

  • Contains higher amounts of sugar instead of fiber

  • Sugar sweetened beverages and processed foods

  • Increases blood sugar quickly, which can lead to hunger later on when blood sugar drops (32, 33)

  • Should make a small part of your diet and be consumed on special occasions

  • Hyperpalatable (processed foods) causing overconsumption leading to excessive calorie intake

What Is Ketosis? (For More Info)

  • A metabolic state in the body that uses fat to create ketones for energy instead of protein and carbohydrates 
  • This metabolic state will only occur if the body doesn't have enough blood glucose i.e lack of carbohydrates and protein 
  • Ketosis usually occurs if you consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, but the diet should be specific to the person
  • A high fat, low-moderate protein and low carb intake is needed to sustain ketosis

Pros

  • Ketosis allows the body to run on fat instead of carbohydrates and protein
  • Reduces appetite and blood sugar spikes 
  • Improves cognitive function, focus and energy levels in certain individuals

Cons

  • The diet can be strict and hard to adhere to
  • Certain individuals may experience fatigue and feel lethargic on a low carb diet 
  • Can lead to excessive stress i.e overtraining when doing high intensity interval training due to the lack of carbohydrates

Key Points

  • Fruits, vegetables and whole grains (complex carbs) should make up the majority of your carbohydrate consumption

  • Sugar sweetened beverages and processed foods should be avoided as much as possible and only be consumed on special occasions

  • Insulin delivers nutrients to cells, inhibits muscle protein breakdown and improves mood

  • Fiber strengthens the immune system and prevents certain diseases by feeding the good bacteria in the gut microbiome (30)

  • Carbohydrates are not evil nor are they bad for you, BUT an excessive intake of simple carbohydrates will put you at a greater risk for type II diabetes and obesity

  • Your carbohydrate intake should be dependent upon your activity level i.e an active person needs more carbohydrates than a sedentary person

  • Ketosis is a metabolic state that can improve focus and energy levels in certain individuals but it won't work for everyone

10 Healthy Carbohydrate Sources

  1. Sweet/White Potatoes

  2. Berries (Fruit)

  3. Broccoli

  4. Brussel Sprouts

  5. Cauliflower

  6. Oats

  7. Legumes

  8. Quinoa

  9. White/ Brown Rice

  10. Kale/Spinach

*The sources from this blog post are taken from an ebook I am working on 

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