Are Carbohydrates Really the Enemy?

What is a carbohydrate?

A lot of you may equate carbohydrates with bread and pasta. You’re right in that thought, but you can also find them in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and many sweet desserts. A carbohydrate is a molecule that is made up of multiple atoms of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and known as a saccharide. You may have heard of one or a few of the four kinds of carbohydrates: mono-, di-, oligo-, and polysaccharides. If you took Latin, you’ll recognize that mono- and disaccharides are the “smaller” variations of the four types of carbs. These are mostly referred to as sugar (think sucrose, glucose, lactose, etc.) On the other hand, polysaccharides are carbohydrates containing fibers.

If you have ever wondered how this important macronutrient plays an essential role in your everyday health, then you’re in the right place. I’m going to give you the full scoop on all things carbs, and a few ways to incorporate a healthy mix of whole-food carbohydrates into your diet.

What do carbohydrates do for our bodies?

Carbohydrates, along with fats and proteins, are macronutrients that our bodies use as energy. Our brains, muscle tissue, and cells all use carbohydrates in different ways, in varying amounts, and ratios.

Your body can make energy through healthy fats and proteins through various processes and it doesn’t technically need to consume carbohydrates to survive. However, carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy that our bodies can use.

What are good carbs?

Complex carbohydrates play an important part in a balanced, healthy diet.

They provide you with sustained energy that won’t fall flat to an afternoon crash, they fuel your post-work workout class, they work to balance your blood sugars, and they provide fiber to support healthy digestion.

What foods have carbs?

Start here to find whole food sources of carbohydrates:

  • Fruits like raspberries, apples, and bananas.
  • Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, artichoke hearts.
  • Starchy Vegetables: sweet potatoes.
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
  • Legumes: black beans and lentils.
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, and quinoa, and millet, which are both pseudo-grains (they’re actually seeds!)

Simple Carbohydrates vs. Complex Carbohydrates

So what are refined carbs? You can take it a step further and think about these four types of carbohydrates as “simple” and “complex.” In a nutshell, monosaccharides and disaccharides are also known to be refined, and they’re found in processed foods like cookies, candy, and soda.

However, they can also be found in many fruits, coconut water, and honey. These types of carbohydrates are digested very quickly, and they can be specifically used to elicit an insulin response, which is an increase in your body’s response to the sugar that you’ve eaten. It drives glucose (a.k.a. sugar) into your cells (like muscle cells) for energy or stored for the future in fat cells. These hidden sugars are incredibly cheap to produce, which makes it easy for large companies to use them in their food products.

On the other hand, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides digest slowly–think of them as high fiber carbs. These types of carbohydrates are known to be “complex” and can include anything like carrots, apples, broccoli, whole wheat grains, and quinoa.

Complex carbohydrates go beyond simple sugars—they also have fiber and starch. Since they often pack more nutrients, they’re considered to be more beneficial for your health too.

Once you recognize that carbs aren’t the enemy, you will be better equipped to succeed with your health goals.

And while I won’t say that one carbohydrate is “worse” than the other, the majority of us who strive to live a healthy lifestyle want to prioritize complex carbohydrates and carbohydrates that are found in vegetables and fruits.

Therefore, carbohydrates aren’t necessarily the enemy, it just depends on how much you intake – not too little and not too much, just the right amount. If you want to learn more about food and nutrition, check out our medical page here where you can find interesting stories about how to live a happier and healthier life!

Xoxo, Messycafe.

3 thoughts on “Are Carbohydrates Really the Enemy?

  1. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Kudos


  2. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your site. You have some really great posts and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s