Just the word carbohydrate is enough to strike fear in the hearts of dieters and fitness devotees all over the world. So what is it about carbs that has such a bad rap? Why are they treated like the dangerous outlaw of food? Do they really need to be avoided like the plague, or can the right carbs—within limits—play an important part in your daily diet?
WHAT ARE CARBS?
Here’s the real story: carbs are energy. They are considered one of the three daily essential macronutrients and have a necessary role in your body’s ability to function on a daily basis. When broken down, carbs become glucose which is the only source of energy your brain can use.
Carbs sound pretty important, right? So what’s the problem? Well, going overboard when eating them and choosing the wrong ones are what can get you and your waistline into trouble.
THE PROBLEM WITH CARBS
While we all need to eat some carbs each day to fuel our brains, we don’t need to eat as many carbs as we often do. The typical western diet includes about 50 to 60 percent of its calories as carbs—when we can really get away with a diet of no more than 40 percent carbs.
Carbs are easy for your body to burn, which means they are the first form of energy your body goes for. By limiting your carbs, you instead force your body to go into stored body fat and glucose and start burning that for energy, resulting in lost weight.
TWO TYPES OF CARBS
While restricting the amount of carbs you eat each day is important, it’s even more important to carefully select complex carbs that take longer for your body to break down and have healthy nutritional elements, such as fiber. There are two types of carbs—simple carbs such as sugars and refined foods, and complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. By choosing complex carbs on your low-carb diet, you get the most bang for your carbohydrate buck.