Maybe you’ve heard you should avoid carbs. I’ve certainly heard that chatter. I’m always perplexed when I hear about people trying not to eat carbs. Carbohydrates (carbs) provide us with the daily fuel we need in or out of the gym. We aren’t just talking about grains here; even fruits and vegetables are also made up primarily of carbohydrates!
Carbs are the primary energy source utilized by the brain and working muscles of the human body. Eliminating the fuel for our muscles doesn’t make sense. Life is so demanding of our time and energy that we cannot deprive our bodies of the nutrients and energy they need to get it all done. That is why eliminating carbs is a practice without basis. One thing that is a must for me to ensure I get fuel to face the day is breakfast before anything, and, yes, this includes plenty of carbs, including my beloved bread. Keep it simple, and keep it balanced.
Carbs and Calories
If you are worried about the insulin response of the body in relation to consuming carbs, an index of foods conducted in 1997 identified that some protein-rich and fat-rich foods (i.e. beef, eggs) induced as much insulin secretion as did some carbohydrate-rich foods. I understand people think that cutting back on carbs results in weight loss, but this happens only because many of our calories come from carb sources, so of course, whenever there is a deficit in calories, we will lose weight. However, we have to focus on lifestyle and health for weight loss to happen and stay long term.
Once we stop counting calories and macro (macronutrient) percentages, and concentrate on enjoying meals and eating whole real foods, it becomes a lot easier to control weight. No one ever got fat from eating too many greens. It is more important to be conscientious about the quality and variety of our food rather than how many carbs it contains. And there are so many wonderful options these days to help keep us trim while enjoying the foods we like, such as bread. There are many healthy whole grain light options to choose from. I tend to go for the Light Whole Grain Bread by Aunt Millie’s with some ricotta cheese, honey, and chia seeds sprinkled on top. This is often my breakfast, and it is a perfect blend of the macronutrients (protein, carb, and fat) to give me a wonderful start to my day. The lighter choices allow for easy decisions about what to eat while keeping it fast and healthy.
Quality Over Quantity
Pay attention to quality and variety in order to eat well and manage your weight. The quality of the carbohydrates consumed is what counts, so we cannot lump all carbs into one category, as they are not all equal. No one macronutrient, whether it be carbs, fat, or protein causes weight gain. Excess calories, no matter the source, cause weight gain. The goal here is to eat whole foods, meaning minimally-processed high fiber whole grains along with fruits, vegetables. It is well known and researched that highly processed carbs are linked to obesity and health risks. On the other hand, it is equally well proven that minimally processed foods, including carbohydrates foods such as whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables are linked to all sorts of weight and health benefits.
Bottom line: Carbs are a main fuel source for your body so make them part of your daily diet. Keep in mind, the majority of your carb choices should be high quality carbohydrates, preferably whole foods and whole grains containing a good source of fiber.
If you need some guidance on what to eat pre and post workout, check out “Mythbuster: Fitness Nutrition.”
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information.