Carbohydrates are our body’s most efficient energy source. Carbohydrates metabolize more quickly than fats and can be converted to energy almost instantly via glycolysis. There are two main types of carbohydrates

  • Simple Carbohydrates
  • Complex Carbohydrates

But the distinction isn’t very simple because both the simple and complex carbs can be categorized within their own type as well!

  • Simple Carbs = Monosaccharides (single sugars) and Disaccharides (two sugars)
    • Sugars
    • Fruit juices
    • Candy
    • Cakes
  • Complex Carbs = Oligosaccharides (3-10 sugars) and Polysaccharides (+10 sugars)
    • Vegetables
    • Grains
    • Legumes
    • Lentils
    • Potatoes

The most important thing to know though is that all of those break down through digestion into a single sugar: Glucose.

On top of being an efficient energy source, carbohydrates also provide the body with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that cannot be made by the body nor found in other types of foods.

So, if carbohydrates provide all of those health benefits and serve as an energy source for the body, why do we fear them and think low carbohydrate diets are the way to go?!?!

Well, there’s several reasons for that actually

  • Most of the “carbs” people have been eating the last 30 years are highly processed, depleted of most nutrients, contain few (if any) whole food ingredients and are saturated with chemical preservatives

Fast food, cakes, pies, pastries, Rice a Roni, Kraft Mac & Cheese, frozen dinners, pizza, french fries, chicken nuggets, cereals, breads, bagels, english muffins, waffles, pancakes etc.

  • Those unhealthy carbs have been linked to a host of potential health issues like Diabetes, Heart Disease and  Cancer
  • People are eating far too many carbs in general

Somehow society’s view of the proper ratio of macronutrients for overall general health has been skewed. If you’re not a competitive athlete and/ or don’t exercise through a high intensity training modality there’s no need for the majority of your calories in a day to come from carbohydrates. Yes, carbohydrate sources must be present, but not in excess of 40% of total calories consumed in a day. 

It’s the over consumption of too much of the wrong types of carbohydrates that cause weight gain therefore they’ve been given a bad rep across the board, but most people don’t even know what healthy carbs are!

The healthy carbs are the ones you could find out in nature if you went looking! It’s truly that simple. Before buying any product in the grocery store ask yourself the fundamental question “Could I find this growing or grazing somewhere in the world?” If the answer is NO it took a group of people in hair nets and white lab coats to “create” it and it’s not REAL food.

Healthy sources of carbohydrate sources include

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits    
  • Potatoes
  • Natural grains like rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth
  • Legumes like black beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans and chickpeas

Now, looking at this list and thinking about the contents of your local grocery store will give you an indication of the proliferation of processed foods in the American Diet. Healthy foods aren’t the ones found in a box or a bag. They aren’t the ones with 1,000 ingredients you can’t pronounce either.

Getting and staying healthy is as easy as choosing whole, real sources of carbohydrates to eat as part of an overall nutrition plan that has a balance between proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  Shopping mostly from the outer perimeter of the grocery store and eating a diet that consists of mostly whole real food sources like fresh vegetables, beans and fruit will not only nourish your body better but also keep you healthier in the long term.

With all that being said, I live in the real world, and so do you. Do I think it’s realistic to completely cut out that bottom list of foods from your life? Probably not. I mean, it’s 2018! You’ve got to enjoy life too right! Limiting consumption of simple carbohydrates to occasionally and making consumption of complex carbohydrates regular practice is the key to overall health, and finding balance between the two is going to be the key.