Why do we need carbs? Do we really need them to be healthy?
In this blog post, you’ll learn about why we need carbs in your diet and how they help you lose weight.
Before anything else, I would like to remind you that I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist. I base my articles on my knowledge, researches, and personal experiences.
We all already heard it once in our lives “pasta makes you fat” or “eating carbs in the evening is bad”. Most recently, we also hear saying that fruits have too much sugar and that they should be avoided to lose weight.
If you want the truth, it is precisely these kinds of myths that lead me to my eating disorders a few years ago.
I know that I am not the only one to have gone through them, hence why making a blog post about carbs seemed necessary to me.
What are carbs?
Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrients – just as proteins and fats – found in many foods.
Carbs are naturally found in most unprocessed foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes), whereas the food industry adds carbs to processed foods (in the form of sugar or starch).
Which are the different types of carbs?
There are two types of carbs; simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbs are also called “fast” since the body digest them quickly. We can find them in fruits, sugar, sodas, candy, pastry, and many other processed foods.
Because they increase blood sugar and entice a peak of insulin, simple carbs are often considered as unhealthy
To clarify, the role of insulin is to keep a healthy balance of blood sugar in the body. It is the hormone responsible for making the excess sugar entering the cells. Once they’re in there, it is available to give your body energy. If the sugar is not used, it will be stored as fat.
However, you will see that not all simple carbs are made the same way and, therefore, don’t have the same impacts on the body.
Complex carbs are also called “slow” since they take longer to digest. They are found in grains, legumes, pasta, bread, or potatoes.
Unlike simple carbs, sugar from complex carbs reach the blood progressively. That means that less insulin is required to regulate blood sugar and that energy will be available for a longer period.
Complex carbs aren’t all made the same either and can have different effects on the body depending, on where they come from.
Are carbs all made the same?
You got it, we just can’t consider simple carbs as unhealthy and complex carbs as healthy. So instead of contenting ourselves of this principle, let’s dig a little bit more.
Fruits contain sugar, but this isn’t all
Let’s take the example of fruits, which fall under the category of simple carbs. The “rule” would suggest that simple carbs are not healthy.
However, what is yet to take into account, is that fruit is not only composed of sugar. Fruits are rich in fibers, a nutrient that is essential for a healthy gut.
Moreover, fibers slow the assimilation process, which prevents a spike of insulin, unlike sodas and candy would.
But that’s not all. Fruits contain a whole lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essentials for a healthy body and strong immune system.
So people who think of fruits as candy or who stop eating fruits to “lose weight” are so wrong.
What about bread, pasta, and rice?
The same applies to complex carbs; there are good and less good. Once again, everything stands in the nutritional value of what you eat.
For a healthier and more nutritional choice, go for vegetables, legumes, whole grain pasta, bread, and rice, which are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Refined grains are less nutrient-dense since the germ and bran were removed. Processing grains considerably decreases the vitamins, fibers, and minerals intake, as you can see in the following chart.
Broadly speaking, the more the food is processed, the less interesting it is in terms of nutrition. Therefore, it is preferable to integrate as much unprocessed food as possible into your diet and to limit processed foods. However, it is still fine to enjoy foods that are not so nutrient-dense from time to time!
Do carbs make you gain weight?
It is because of the reasons mentioned before that was born the myth that carbs make you gain weight. Yes, it is a myth.
Weight loss and weight gain primarily depend on the principle of calories in versus calories out. To lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn. To gain weight, you should eat more calories than you burn.
Technically, we could lose weight while only eating ice cream. Needless to say that it wouldn’t be very nutritious, but you got it (-:
So yes, you can forget about the idea that carbs make you fat. Not a single food or food group will make you gain weight per se, only quantities and your physical activity have a real impact.
Why do we need carbs to be healthy
I hope this blog post convinced you of the fact that carbs are not the enemy and that we actually need them.
Carbs are our first source of energy and contain, depending on the food, tons of fibers, vitamins, and minerals that can be found elsewhere.
When I fell into fitness a few years ago (and knew nothing about nutrition), I managed to believe, like many people, that carbs were going to make me fat.
I wouldn’t eat bread, pasta, nor rice. Not only was I probably missing tons of nutrients, but I was always starving, lacked energy, and struggled to lose weight.
Today, my diet is mainly plant-based and, therefore, mainly composed of carbs. You can believe me when I say that I never felt that good! I feel full every day and even weight less than I did before.
If there’s something to take from here is : eat the damn carbs. I have plenty of healthy nutrient-dense recipes in my blog if you need some inspiration! You’ll find them under the nutrition category.
I hope this blog post answered your question on why do we need carbs as part of a healthy diet! If you have questions, let me know n the comments below!