Complex carbohydrates are essential to our bodies. However, with all of the fad diets out there banning bread, grains and more. It has more people asking, “What are carbs?”
While low-carb diets may have you scared to pick up a banana you once thought was healthy, it’s important to learn about a balanced diet for a long, healthy life.
What are Carbs?
Carbohydrates are one of 3 macronutrients our bodies use to create energy. The other two macronutrients are protein and fat.
Carbs are responsible for fueling our central nervous system and help everything from our muscle movement to memory. So we definitely don’t want to cut them completely out.
In fact, the Standard American Diet (the food pyramid) actually recommends 45%-65% of our calories should come from healthy, good carbs. Plus good carbs are low in fat, high in fiber and can help our energy levels throughout the day.
All carbohydrates are not created the same.
Sugars, starches and high-fiber foods are all carbohydrates. They’re found in fruits, grains, veggies and dairy products.
We can fuel our bodies with complex carbohydrates, but we want to skip simple or refined carbs like candy, cookies, and potato chips.
The quickest way to decide is a carb is good or bad is to ask, “Is this food found in nature?”
If it is, it’s probably good for you. For example, berries, bananas, tomatoes, kale, oats, quinoa, and sweet potatoes all grow in nature and are a great source of carbs and vitamins for your body.
Some high carb foods are:
To go in depth a little more, good carbs are naturally found in the world. They are unrefined (or untouched by man basically), are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and don’t raise blood sugar too high or quickly.
Good carbs are:
- low in calories
- high in vitamins and minerals
- low to no refined sugars
- contain no refined grains
- High in naturally occurring fiber
- Low in sodium
- Low in saturated fat
- Contain no or little cholesterol and trans fats
Complex carbohydrates are found in nature and fiber-rich. They can help your body maintain great energy, and the fiber keeps you feeling full.
Examples of good and complex carbs are:
- whole grains (make sure labels don’t contain “enriched flour”)
- veggies like broccoli
- yams and sweet potatoes
Bad carbs are:
The bad carbs are what have made low-carb diets so popular. They’re highly processed and refined which strips them of their nutrition. They don’t contain the vitamins, minerals or fiber good carbs do, and they can spike your blood sugar. They also don’t keep you full due to their lack of nutrition.
Warning Signs of a Bad Carb:
- high in calories
- low in nutrition
- low in fiber
- comes in a box
- has a long list of ingredients
- contains refined sugar or artificial sweeteners (learn more about those here)
A few examples of bad carbs are:
- sugars and syrups
- sugary cereal
- potato chips
- cookies & cake
- jams & jellies
Carb cycling varies how many carbs you’ll eat per day, and it’s a great way to make a low-carb diet more flexible. It’s also been linked to helping break weight loss plateaus and helping to fuel athletes bodies during tough training programs.
Basically, if you’re eating complex carbohydrates that are “whole foods” found naturally in the world you’re doing great. Your body will be a forced to be reckoned with when you get in a balanced meal of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats.
We also recommend following a portion control diet to make sure you aren’t eating too much of anything. We can even over-do the good stuff so learning about portions makes a big difference in your weight loss and fitness goals.
Should you do a low carb diet plan?
Best Low Carb Books
If you’re going to cut back all of your carbs, then it’s important to make sure you’re educated on the process. Here are a few reputable books to help you learn more and have some amazing recipes to try!