Carbs. If a food could acquire a negative stereotype, this food group has. How often do we hear “Carbs make you fat” or “Low-carb diets are the key to losing weight?” Let’s be honest, neither of these statements are necessarily true. Carbs are just as important as any other macronutrient our body requires, if not more. In fact, our brain uses glucose, a simple form of carbohydrate, before it will use any other energy source. Take away point? Our brains and bodies love (and need) carbs! And as college students, we need our brains and bodies to be functioning at full throttle!
So let’s break it down. First of all, what are carbohydrates? Carbs are one of the three macronutrients our body uses to get energy (fat and protein are the other two). Secondly, there are different kinds of carbs (throwback to high school biology) .
- Sugars- The simplest form of carbohydrates, sugars naturally occur in foods like fruits,vegetables, and milk products. Sugars are frequently manufactured and added to our foods like high fructose corn syrup, granulated sugar, and other refined sources.
- Starches- These are a complex form of carbohydrates with lots of sugars or monomers bound together. This form of carbohydrate can be found in foods like vegetables, legumes, potatoes, and grains.
- Fiber- This is also a complex form of carbohydrates, but we often cannot digest it. This is why fiber is said to be good for digestive health, because it “scrubs” out the digestive tract as it moves through your body. It also gives food “bulk” which helps you feeling fuller for longer.
The Dietary Guidelines suggest that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your daily caloric intake. Woah, that sounds like a lot! But let’s remember that not all carbs are created equal.
Definitely try to avoid foods with added or refined sugars that can be found in products like white bread and processed foods/snacks. However, it is totally okay, great even, to add unrefined and natural sources of carbohydrates to your plate. Focus on consuming naturally occurring sugars, and choose fiber-rich whole fruits and veggies, whole grains (check your bread for high fructose corn syrup), beans, and legumes- the simpler the better.
Key message here- Carbs are not the enemy! Carbohydrates are an important component to a healthy and balanced diet. They provide energy to fuel your busy day and despite what low-carb diets say, very few studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity. So with that being said, eat your (healthy) carbs and enjoy it too!
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