Carbohydrates are one of the most controversial concepts in today’s diet culture but why are they given such a bad rap? As a main source of fuel for our bodies, they shouldn’t be demonized; they should be embraced! Let’s talk about what kinds of carbohydrates we use here at N4L and how following a carbohydrate consistent diet is beneficial for our health.
What are carbohydrates?
Let’s start with explaining some basics about carbohydrates and why they are so important. Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred main source of fuel and energy. When broken down, they provide the body with glucose which is converted into energy for use in the brain, the central nervous system, and to support metabolic functions. Carbohydrates also serve as fuel for physical activity.1,2 Carbohydrates are stored in our body to be accessed when we need energy later on.
There are many forms of carbohydrates. The quality of the carbohydrate source is just as important as how many you consume. There are three main types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars, and dietary fiber. Starches are typically found in plant-based food items like certain vegetables and whole grains. When it comes to sugar, we have naturally occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables. However, sugars are also found in highly processed and refined foods as added sugars which, in excess, can be harmful to our health. The final source of carbohydrates in the diet is from dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that provide a variety of health benefits including promoting heart and digestive health.3
But, with all the different choices out there, where does one start with picking a healthy carbohydrate source?
The carbohydrates that provide us the most health benefits are those that are unprocessed or minimally processed including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. These carbohydrates sources are full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients which all contribute to a healthy and balanced diet.1,3 These types of carbohydrates, also commonly known as complex carbohydrates, are digested and broken down at a much slower rate when compared to their highly processed and refined counterpart, simple carbohydrates (white bread, soda, and juices). Slower digestion increases satiety or the feeling of being full. You should aim to maximize the amount of complex carbohydrates in your diet from vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your everyday diet.4
Refined and highly processed carbohydrates should make up much less of the diet. Typically, these are the simple carbohydrates that are easily converted into simple sugars and spike blood glucose levels.2 Since the body processes refined carbohydrates quickly they don’t provide long lasting energy which then results in a “crash” or that tired feeling we experience after eating something high in sugar. Refined carbohydrates fall short nutritionally as they provide very few vitamins and minerals.4
What is a carb consistent diet and what does that mean to us here at N4L?
Not only are the types of carbohydrates you eat important, but the quantity of carbohydrates you consume at each meal is equally as significant! Commonly seen in diets prescribed for those with diabetes, a carbohydrate consistent diet promotes consuming a steady intake of carbohydrates throughout the day at each meal. By eating a consistent amount of complex carbohydrate, spikes in blood glucose levels as well as the insulin release trigger are greatly reduced.6
Here at N4L, we strive to create well-balanced meals that are full of whole grains and plant-based sources of carbohydrate that range from 55-65 grams at each meal giving you the clean energy you need to get through the day and live a healthy lifestyle.6
Overall, carbohydrates are an essential part of our everyday diets and should be treated as such! Don’t be afraid to include healthy sources of these complex carbohydrates in each meal as they are our body's main source of fuel. Out of the three types of carbohydrates, strive to include more fiber and healthy starches from vegetables and whole grains rather than sugars (especially added sugars) usually from processed foods. Following a carbohydrate consistent diet will help you feel satiated and gives your body the constant energy it needs!
- Carbohydrates. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates. Accessed March 31, 2021.
- Slavin J, Carlson J. Carbohydrates. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(6):760-761. Published 2014 Nov 14. doi:10.3945/an.114.006163
- Carbohydrates Part of a Healthful Diabetes Diet. Eatright.org. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/carbohydrates-part-of-a-healthful-diabetes-diet. Published 2021. Accessed March 31, 2021.
- Hu FB. Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(6):1541-1542. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29622
- Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/. Published 2021. April 2, 2021.
- Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight. New York: Penguin Books; 2018.