Carbs have a bad rep in diet culture, but they are the body’s main source of energy. They fuel workouts, vital organs, the central nervous system, and brain. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, and the body uses insulin to carry the glucose to fuel your cells. The brain would not survive without carbohydrates. Studies reveal that individuals who consume a diet primarily based in complex carbohydrates (like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Complex Versus Simple Carbohydrates
There are two different types carbohydrates, complex and simple. Simple carbohydrates are only made up of one or two sugar molecules - like sugar, honey, and white bread. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides and contain starch and fiber. Complex carbohydrates are optimal because fiber provides satiety, they do not spike blood sugar, they break down slowly in the body, and they provide long lasting energy. Some examples of complex carbohydrates include oatmeal, legumes, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, potatoes, yams, barley, brown rice, and many other plant foods. These foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical that support the immune system.
Simple carbs, like syrups and white flour, provide instant energy, but do not contain nutrients or fiber. They also do not provide the same satiety as complex carbohydrates because they do not activate the stretch receptors in the stomach and are more dense in calories. Foods that are richer (or more calorie dense) produce more dopamine (pleasure) in the brain. This makes it very easy to over consume processed foods or refined carbohydrates. It is recommended to limit simple sugars as they are easy to over eat, and this can lead to excess weight gain.
Do carbohydrates cause weight gain?
Carbohydrates causing weight gain is a big misconception. Fat contains more than twice the calories of carbs in one gram. One gram of fat from has 9 calories per gram, whereas one 1 gram of carbohydrates from potatoes has 4 calories. The higher fat foods like butters and oils added to starches like potatoes make them more calorie dense, but on their own, starches are a very low calorie food. They fill up the stomach without a whole lot of calories. Because carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, consuming them allows people to workout more efficiently and build lean muscle. Have you ever tried to workout on an empty stomach? The body uses up its glycogen stores more quickly, and a workout can feel a lot more difficult than it would have been with adequate carbohydrate intake. When the body is properly fueled, your body feels better, and you are more likely to have the desire to work out. You also have longer stamina, which can lead to more calories burned.
What is caloric density?
Understanding caloric density is the key knowledge to effortless weight loss or weight management. Research has shown that people can freely eat foods that are 300 calories per pound or less, and they will not gain weight. Humans typically eat 3-5 pounds of food per day. By consuming foods low in calories per pound, people are able to eat large portions of food and feel satisfied. It makes it easy to reduce overall calories or not over consume calories. By following a few simple principles, one can increase the amount of food on their plate while simultaneously decreasing overall caloric intake. Complex carbohydrates are relatively low in overall calories per pound, whereas simple carbohydrates are high in calories per pound. Take a look at this calorie density chart below to better understand:
Are low carb diets healthier?
Studies reveal that not eating carbohydrates can harm your health. Many low-carb diets cut our or eliminate fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, lentils, and split peas)—foods that are packed with nutrition. This leads to a diet without enough nutrients including thiamine, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Without vitamin supplements, people consuming low-carb diets are at risk of being deficient. Low carb diets tend to lack enough fiber and are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, which has been shown to up someone’s risk of heart disease. Low carb diets can lead to weight loss, but they can be difficult to maintain, and harm your overall health in the long run.
This Banana Dream Smoothie provides healthy carbohydrates to keep you satisfied and feeling energized.
- TUSOL Illuminate Smoothie Mix
- 1 banana
- 2 medjool dates
- 5 cups organic unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup of ice
Blend and serve!
For Effortless Nutrition try our New Superfood Latte!