Carbs are good for you!

Carbs seem to have a bad reputation, and as a Registered Dietitian and a person with type I diabetes, I want to scream from the top of my lungs: “CARBS ARE GOOD!”.

There are 3 sources of Calories (energy) from food: fat, protein, and carbohydrate (well, actually there are 4 sources if we count alcohol, but I digress). These 3 macronutrients are all important for the body, but sugar (from carbohydrate) may be the most important.

Why, you ask? Well, sugar is our body’s #1 energy source. The brain and heart cannot function without sugar! So, what happens when we go on a “low carb” diet? Well, when we do not have enough sugar from food, our body makes sugar on its own. The way it does this is by converting proteins (broken down from your body’s MUSCLES) into sugar.

So, how do we protect the muscles that we work so hard to build? We feed our body the sugar/carbohydrate it needs! Research tells us that we should eat no less than 130 g of carbohydrate each day (for those of us who like numbers). For those who do not like numbers, fill 1/4 of your plate with carbohydrate at each meal.

Don’t get me wrong: carbs can be a “danger zone”, especially in the form of simple sugars (candy, juice, desserts, sugary drinks, white flour, etc.). Whole grains and high-fiber carbs, like whole wheat bread/pasta/cereal, fresh fruit, and beans/peas/legumes give the body the energy (sugar) it needs while keeping us feeling full (great for weight management) and promoting a healthy digestive tract.

When your “sweet tooth” shows its face, just remember: portion control. A healthy diet is a balancing act. Planning on having dessert? Choose a meal with protein and veggies (chicken/steak salad, or grilled/baked fish with asparagus/broccoli/green beans, etc.) and share your dessert to avoid “over doing” the carbs at that meal.

PHEW…I feel better now. Carbs are good, and understanding why we need them and how to fit them into our life is important. Restricting foods (especially some of our favorite foods) makes “dieting” difficult and less successful. So, my thought is: Never say never!

1. It’s science! Feed the body what it needs: protein (10-35% of total Calorie intake), carbohydrate (45-60% of total
Calorie intake), and fat (20-35% of total Calorie intake).
2. ENJOY your foods while always remembering the basics: fresh is best, and moderation is key!
3. Know what you are eating because diet is all about balancing nutrients.

Specific questions? I am glad to answer them!


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