Macro Myths: Carbs
Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD
Sort through the facts and myths about carbohydrates!
❕ General Overview:
When starting the conversation around carbohydrates or commonly known as “carbs”, it's important to consider them as the body’s preferred source of energy. The conversion of carbohydrate to fuel is a lot more efficient than the conversion of protein or fat into usable energy.
Generally, grains took the largest part of the original USDA Food Guide Pyramid, followed by fruits and vegetables. Although the infographic was flawed, the importance of carbohydrates is real.
It’s disheartening to hear individuals with diabetes mellitus say that they can’t eat certain foods because they are high in carbohydrates. Of course, some sources of carbohydrates, like candy and doughnuts, are not smart choices; however, a person with diabetes absolutely needs carbohydrates in their diet. This is especially important, if on insulin or blood-sugar lowering medication.
❔ Common Myths:
Many are not aware that low blood sugar can be more dangerous than high blood sugar! The key is choosing mostly nutritious foods high in fiber and nutrients. Think whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes and whole grains.
Fruit often gets a bad reputation because of its sugar content. While it does contain sugar, fruit also houses vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that our bodies crave. It’s important to be aware of processed fruits. For example, fruit juice often has added sugar and lacks the fiber that whole fruit contains.
Another unfortunate misconception: Foods that are white are full of carbs. Refined white foods, like bread and rice, lack the nutrition of their whole grain counterparts. Yet, there are plenty of nutrient rich foods that are white. Consider the value of potatoes, onions, mushrooms and cauliflower! And, did you know that white whole wheat bread is a thing?
Many fad diets eliminate grains, even whole grains, because they are allegedly inflammatory, especially the ones that contain gluten. For those with a sensitivity to gluten or certain grains, this is absolutely true. But, for the majority of people, whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, notably fiber, B vitamins, and multiple minerals. They are members of the complex carbohydrate family, which are more slowly digested and serve a role in stabilizing blood sugars.
Complex carbohydrates are also found in starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, and fruits. Complex carbohydrates are made of long strands of sugar, while simple carbohydrates only have one or two units of sugar, more easily digested and potentially causing a spike in blood glucose levels.
Note: Simple carbohydrates are found in candy, soda, table sugar, and ice pops, to name a few foods.
A final carbohydrate misconception: “Carbs are fattening!” Foods high in carbohydrates are not inherently fattening. Watch out for an excess of calories, regardless of the form. In fact, water and fiber-rich carbohydrate foods, such as vegetables, are actually supportive of weight loss as they are satiating while frequently low in calories.