Food & Nutrition

Truth about carbs: What you need to know

First things first! Carbohydrates are not the villain in your story! They aren’t the enemy but they are made out to be. At least not all of them.

With the increasing popularity of various ‘low-carb diets or fad diets, all forms of carbohydrates have been declared bad and must be avoided at all times. There are assumptions that all carbs come in the way of weight loss, tend to increase your sugar levels, increase your chances of Type 2 Diabetes and increase your cholesterol levels. That is very far from the truth, simply because all carbs are not the same.

Truth about Carbs

Not all carbs are the same and not all are bad for you. Carbohydrates are your first energy resource, and having them in your body is important.

Carbohydrates are basically of two types: Simple carbohydrates and Complex carbohydrates.

The simple carbs are the ones that are simplest to absorb and the fastest to provide energy. But there are some simple carbs that tend to spike your blood sugar levels and insulin levels very fast, these simple carbs are the ones that are high in sugar and low in fibre. Unfortunately, simple carbs with low fibre content tend to cause weight gain and increase cholesterol levels and contribute to heart diseases and diabetes. Consuming low-fibre simple carbs is often followed by feelings of fatigue and food cravings as well. Some common examples of simple carbs are bread, cakes, pastries etc.

Complex carbs are needed by the body to perform various important tasks like digestion, metabolism, regularisation of mood, metabolism, sleep pattern and much more. These are complex sugars, and hence take longer to get absorbed in the bloodstream, and so do not spike the blood sugar levels, they also help the body feel full for a longer time.

Complex carbs are also important because they help to regulate weight, keep energy levels at the optimum and are even beneficial in reducing the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. They are important for a well-balanced diet.

No doubt, avoiding simple carbs and maintaining a low-carb diet is a suitable option for many people. But assuming that all carbs are bad is most certainly incorrect.

How many carbs are good

Much against the common notion that low carb intake is the only way to lose weight or stay fit, our body gets its fuel from carbohydrates. The normal functioning of the brain depends on carbohydrates, so a poor or low consumption of carbohydrates invariably means a bad effect on the regular functioning of the brain. One would notice, difficulty in concentration, mood changes, sleep changes and much more if one consumes lower carbohydrates than what the body needs. In fact, out of the total daily calorie intake, almost 45-65% of the calories must come from carbs. This obviously means that all carbs are not your enemy.

However, it is important to choose the right kind of carbohydrate to put into your body. Healthy carbohydrates help to supply the body with a good amount of energy, and fibre and also help the person feel satiated and full for a longer duration of time.

Here are some of the good carbs that the body actually benefits from.

What carbs are good for you

Including good carbs help your body in many ways, here are a few carbs you can consume on a daily basis.

Oats: They are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even protein. Oats contain good carbohydrates that help your body feel full for a longer duration of time. Also, consuming oats is known to have beneficial effects on weight loss and is also known to be heart-healthy.

Bananas: Contrary to popular belief, bananas are a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with potassium, they regulate blood pressure. Whether unripe or ripe, they provide essential carbs. Unripe bananas aid digestion and foster good bacteria, while ripe ones offer a natural energy boost.

Oranges: These are one of the most delicious citrus fruits that are a great source of nutrition as well. Despite being a simple form of carbohydrates, oranges are extremely beneficial for the body. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, and Vitamin B complex along with potassium and have high fibre content. In about 100gms of oranges, about 15% or so are carbs and it is mainly water-based.

Whole Grains: Whole grains are yet another excellent source of good complex carbohydrates. Grains like quinoa, brown rice, barley, bajra, ragi and jowar are all great sources of healthy carbohydrates. Whole grains contain the germ, bran and endosperm of the grain which contributes to its fibre and protein content as well. They nourish the body and give a sense of satiety.

Chickpeas: Chickpeas and many other such legumes are very high in fibre, good sources of carbs and are also fortified with minerals, Vitamin K, phosphate, calcium etc. They provide a great deal of energy to the body and are a great source of protein, especially for a plant-based diet.

Sweet Potatoes: This tuber or root vegetable is a ‘super food’, being a nutrition-dense food. About 100gms of sweet potato contains around 20gms of carbohydrates, it is also packed with fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Potassium. It is delicious to eat and helps the stomach feel full and so a great food to include in your daily diet.

Carbs to avoid

We now know what type of carbs to eat. But it is equally important to know what to avoid. Foods made of processed flour, like maida, must be avoided entirely. Despite of the flour being made of wheat, it is harmful, as the husk, bran, and endosperm which are most nutrient dense are destroyed, what is left behind is just simple carbohydrates with little or no nutrition.

To optimize your diet, steer clear of culprits like white bread, pasta, and potatoes. Skip empty calories found in fizzy drinks, beer, and sugary treats. Beware of “pseudo-healthy” options like sweetened curds, packaged fruit juices, sugar-coated cereals, and most biscuits. Make informed choices for a healthier you.

The key to a healthy life is simple, avoid fried and processed foods, try and stick to simple homemade or locally sourced whole foods and limit binging only to ‘occasional occurrences’ and we are good to go!

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