Carbohydrates: Why We NEED Them!?
Guest Written By: Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD
Low carb diets have recently increased in popularity, particularly for weight loss.
It’s true that having too many carbs throughout the day can lead to weight gain, but the problem is when we cut out carbohydrates completely.
It is important to consume carbohydrates on a daily basis, as long as you’re eating the RIGHT kind.
Focus on the nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruit, and avoiding the nutrient-poor carbohydrates such as donuts, chips, cakes, pastas, and breads.
So embrace carbohydrates! Here are five reasons why:
- They give us quick ENERGY – Every time we eat a carbohydrate (whether it’s a banana or a bowl of broccoli) our body converts the carbohydrates into sugar (also known as glucose) once it reaches our bloodstream. Glucose then fuels our muscles and cells and gives us quick energy that is necessary for everyday tasks such as driving a car, cooking dinner, or walking up a flight of stairs. Without carbohydrates, our bodies may feel fatigued and weak due to the lack of glucose intake. Energy is life!
- They fuel our brain: Ever skip a meal and have a hard time concentrating? This may be due to the lack of carbohydrates that is needed to fuel your brain. There’s a part of our brain that runs on glucose, so it is vital for brain power. Think of carbohydrates like gas for a car; it help us get through our day smoothly. So if you want to avoid the common “brain fog” then don’t skip out on carbohydrates.
- They improve mood: Certain carbohydrates contain an amino acid called tryptophan. This amino acid helps to release serotonin; a feel-good brain chemical in our brain. Serotonin is associated with an improvement in sleep quality, a reduction in anxiety, and positive moods. That’s why the foods we often consider “comfort foods” are typically carbohydrates. Good sources of tryptophan are not only found in protein sources, but also carbohydrates such as bananas, dates, broccoli, and beans.
- They provide essential vitamins and minerals: As mentioned above, carbohydrates are essential for our health; as long as we are eating the right kind. Getting the majority of our carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit provide our bodies with key nutrients that are essential for our health and the prevention of certain health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Vegetables and fruit provide our cells with nutrients to help us lose weight, have more energy, sleep better at night, and deal with stressful situations more effectively. Remember, the more nutrients we fuel our bodies with, the better our body will work for us.
- They are full of fiber: Another great benefit of carbohydrates is that they are full of soluble and insoluble fiber. In fact, carbohydrates have more fiber than protein or fats. So why is fiber important? A couple of benefits that fiber provides include flushing out toxins in our bodies, keeps us full, balances our blood sugar levels, promotes a healthy gut, and aids in weight loss.
So include carbohydrates at every meal because our bodies need them for a variety of reasons. Since everyone’s carbohydrate needs differ, it’s important to listen to your body and find the right amount that works for you.
For example, if you’re increasing your physical activity you may need more carbohydrates than usual.
When in doubt, remember to eat more nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruit and less nutrient-poor carbohydrates such as donuts, chips, cakes, pastas, and breads. Your body will thank you!