Carbohydrates can be downright confusing: Some sources claim that eating carbohydrates can impede weight loss and lead to weight gain; others say carbohydrates are an essential part of the diet. Read on to find out the truth about carbohydrates.
There are rumors that eating carbohydrates can be harmful to your diet. Low carbohydrate diets have experienced periods of great popularity for weight loss. But here’s the problem:
Carbohydrates don’t make you fat, but excess calories make you fat
Carbohydrates don’t cause instant weight gain, but starchy foods tend to be very high in calories. And if you eat too many calories, you’re likely to gain weight, whether those calories come from carbohydrates or some other nutrient. Of course, this is a problem if your diet consists only of carbohydrates, but it is also a problem if you omit them altogether. Carbohydrates play an important role in your diet; they provide energy to your body. The name of the game is balance: The USDA recommends that 45 to 65% of an adult’s daily calorie intake comes from carbohydrates, the rest of the calories come from a mixture of protein and fat.
When it comes to carbohydrates, there are a few things to consider
1. Not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Some carbohydrates are better for you than others. It is important to limit refined carbohydrates, which are common in foods like white bread and cakes. The refining process means that whole grains have been extracted, which removes much of the fiber and nutritional value and leaves you with sugary carbohydrates and empty calories.
A better way to fill your daily carbohydrate quota is to use complex carbohydrates, which are found in whole foods like oats, whole grains, beans, green vegetables, and potatoes. Complex carbohydrates are low in sugar and tend to be high in fiber. Fiber takes longer to digest than other carbohydrates, allowing you to stay full and feel full for a long time. This is absolutely true for me: if I snack on something like an apple, I’m much less likely to get a chocolate bar later in the day.
2. Even complex carbohydrates can have a high caloric density, so watch your portions.
Always read nutrition labels and practice portion control. One of my favorite ways to enjoy high calorie carbohydrates in moderation is to increase portion size with low calorie foods like vegetables: You get the health benefits of carbohydrates, plus a big portion and low calorie!