Carbohydrates are truly one of the most misunderstood nutrients out there. From the average person who wants to lose a couple of pounds and goes on a low-carb diet, to the marathon runner who carb loads, somewhere along the way, we've lost our ability to find a middle ground.
Carbohydrates are truly one of the most misunderstood nutrients out there.
It is an absolute fact that carbohydrates are a common source of energy as they break down into sugar; however, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient in humans. The truth of the matter is that we do not NEED carbs in our diet, but if you omit carbs completely, limit carbs drastically, or do not eat the right ones, you will downright feel hungry, tired, and cranky!
If you omit carbs completely, limit carbs drastically, or do not eat the right ones, you will downright feel hungry, tired, and cranky!
Why do carbs get a bad wrap? Simple carbs break down into sugar. Excess sugar that our body doesn't know what to do with gets stored for later use. Stored for later use equals abdominal fat, cellulite, a spare tire around our midsection, more push in the tush, and just overall a lack of muscle in our body based on how your specific body type handles excess sugar. What are the culprits? The obvious, when you put this in your mouth on more than a couple occasions a week, cookies, soda, pastries, french fries, and pizza. What about the not so obvious; sauces, juices, white rice and spaghetti, baguettes, pitas, taco shells, pretzels. These food are high in carbs and calories which provide little to no nutritional value. Where is the content? We aren't getting a whole lot; therefore, we crave more and more carbs, which breaks down into more and more sugar, which makes us crave sugar, and then we might as well pour chocolate sauce over our spaghetti and call it a bad day!
Simple carbs break down into sugar. Excess sugar that our body doesn't know what to do with get stored for later use.
It doesn't have to be that way. Complex carbs take time to break down into sugar, get used up in the body, digest better, and keep us fuller longer as they are full of fiber. They also lower cholesterol. We end up with less cravings, more energy, and our mood stabilizes. The best sources of complex carbs are whole wheat products, fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes, yogurt, milk, and beans.
Complex carbs take time to break down into sugar, get used up in the body, digest better, and keep us fuller longer as they are full of fiber.
The average adults needs about 250 grams of carbs a day and complex carbs should make up about 50% of our diet, with the other half protein, and good fats. Many times when you hear about low-carb diets or people completely cutting out carbs, they get rid of the bread, pasta, and rice. Does that mean that fruits and veggies can cut it on their own?
|Vegetable or Fruit||Carb Content|
|1 cup or arugula||1g|
|1/2 cup of cucumber||2g|
|1/2 cup of broccoli||11g|
|1 cup of iceberg lettuce||2g|
|2 stalks of celery||2.5g|
1/2 cup of mushrooms
|1/2 cup of radishes||2g|
|1/2 cup of turnips||4g|
|1 cup of Romaine Lettuce||1.5g|
|1/2 cup of asparagus||3.5g|
|1/2 cup of green pepper||2g|
|1/2 cup of carrots||6g|
|1/2 cup of corn||11g|
|1 cup of strawberries||13g|
|1 cup of blueberries||21g|
|1 cup of mangoes||22g|
|1 cup of grapes||
What about grains and beans?
|Grain or Bean||Carb Content|
|1/2 cup whole grain oats or oatmeal||27g|
2 slices of Rye bread
2 oz whole wheat pasta
|1 cup of brown rice||44g|
|1 oz of peanuts and 1 oz of almonds||6g each|
|1 oz of walnuts||4g|
|1/2 cup of black beans||20g|
......And then the not so great simple carbs.
|Simple Carb||Carb Content|
|1 chocolate doughnut||51g|
|1 medium fast food order of fries||41g|
|4 tbsp of BBQ Sauce||32g|
|2 slices of cheese pizza||52g|
|3 cups of spaghetti||93g|
|1 can of soda||36g|
|1 white bagel||49g|
|1 Hershey chocolate bar||26g|
Can you have carbs at night? Yes. Will the right carbs make you gain weight? Possibly yes. Eating 6 cups of spaghetti, even if it's whole wheat is 186g. Add your fruits, vegetables, and all the other good things you need in a day and your body still has to process and store the excess sugar.
When you plan to run a marathon or exercise for a long period of time of 2 hours or more, you may need to carb load the night before. In this scenario, you want your body to zap into those stores and tap into that sugar, but for most of us, this does not apply to our daily intake and daily fitness plan. Put down the doughnut and walk away.
The key to losing or maintaining weight is moderation and the necessary, perhaps annoying, but very useful tool of food tracking.
How do we keep it all straight? The key to losing or maintaining weight is moderation and the necessary, perhaps annoying, but very useful tool of food tracking. My Fitness Pal is an amazing, free online tracker that I highly recommend. It will let you know when you've gone overboard or not eaten enough of all of your carb, protein, and fats in a day! The tools are there, tap into them and use them.