Why do we need carbohydrates in our diet? A “no carb diet” is difficult to follow, and the reason being is that it’s not providing you with the nutrients you need and it’s not great for your body. Fatigue, lack of concentration and increased cravings are just some of the side effect.
Carbohydrate is a vital nutrient that our body needs. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for our body. Before any other nutrients are used, carbohydrates come first. Carbohydrates are a readily available energy source and it’s necessary to make sure that carbohydrates make the largest source of energy in our daily intake. Apart from providing us with energy, carbohydrates promote a healthy gut flora by feeding good bacteria that help us digest our food, an often forgotten fact.
If the carbohydrates are low or not present in our diet, the body looks to other sources, including proteins and fats. This might sound like exactly what dieters want to hear but it’s not good news! Carbohydrates and it’s glucose are the body’s most efficient energy source and fats are the least efficient, so fats are not designed to provide us with the fuel we need to function properly. We need fat to absorb fat soluble vitamins and for our body to make hormones amongst many other vital processes. Protein’s main purpose is to supply us with amino acids, the building blocks of protein that help build and protect our muscles. In a low carb diet, proteins are forced to work as glucose (energy) providers and therefore a low carb diet will inhibit protein feeding our muscles. This includes our most important muscle, our heart! Now think about the consequences! A low carb diet will prevent fat and protein to be used where its is actually needed as our body will always make sure it has energy first so our brain won’t starve. Interruption of these vital processes can have an adverse effects on our bodies, especially our heart and no protein to protect that very important muscle can lead to serious health problems.
Yes, you are right…not all carbohydrates are “good”.
The carbohydrates you want to include in your diet are beans, peas, potatoes and grains like oats, rice, spelt and barley. Fibre found in foods make you feel full and as fibre is indigestible it is flushing toxins out of your system too. Many starchy foods are full of fibre such as beans, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
Some carbohydrates should be consumed in moderation:
Some so called simple carbohydrates are high in simple sugars. They occur naturally in everyday foods and drinks such as milk (lactose) and of course cane sugar, honey and syrup. Refined foods such as white bread, white pasta , etc., are another source of simple carbohydrates. These foods are very good for active people or endurance athletes as the low fibre high energy in these foods is vital for them, but should be consumed in moderation on a daily basis for the average person. Whole complex carbohydrates in form of wholemeal pasta, brown rice and bread is preferable. So it’s not carbohydrates as a general that are “bad” it’s just choosing too much of the wrong ones!
The other major contributor to giving carbohydrates a bad reputation is actually the foods that are often consumed with carbohydrates. Having a pasta bake with a thick cheese sauce, a four cheese pizza or potatoes covered in mayonnaise, all of this flushed down with a couple of glasses of wine or some fizzy drinks…think about it…is it really the carbohydrates on your plate you should be cutting out?
So, some may say a low carb diet has worked for them! Ok, for how long? Is it a sustainable way of living healthily and is it a practical and natural way? Could it be that the weight loss comes from changing your diet, thinking about food more or maybe because with cutting out the carbs, you are not having all the fattening food that you would have with your carbs? Why do you think your body is craving carbohydrates? Yes, because your body needs them, simple!
In terms of maintaining a healthy weight thats simple too! Energy expenditure v. Energy intake. Now look at the calories of fat, protein, carbohydrates and alcohol and see what should really be consumed less and also think about your energy expenditure, how active are you?
Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories
Just remember a quick fix is never the right way and you don’t know the long term effects of a restricted diet. Eat well = live well.