That Foul 4 Lettered C-Word: CARB

Carbs…. Oh Carbs… I really feel bad for them.. No one wants to hang out with them.. Everyone picks on them… They “cause a host of problems”… They “make people fat”… Carbohydrates are far and wide the most misunderstood group on the food pyramid …

But me? Well… I love them! Poor little Carbs… Carbs actually do a body good and give us the energy we need to live our lives – and yet they still get a bad reputation? Well today I’m here to STAND UP FOR CARBS! and tell you that carbs can deliver a number of health benefits that include, but are not limited to:


Fueling Your Body!

Complex carbs provide the energy that fuels muscle contractions. Once eaten, carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars (glucose, fructose, and galactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away gets stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is the source of energy most often used for exercise. It is needed for any short, intense bouts of exercise from sprinting to weight lifting because it is immediately accessible. Adequate carbohydrate intake also helps prevent protein from being used as energy. If the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrate, protein is broken down to make glucose for energy.


Helping You Burn Fat!

Eating a breakfast made with “slow-release” carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, 3 hours before exercise may help burn more fat. That’s because these “slow-release” carbohydrates didn’t spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates, such as white bread toast. In turn, insulin levels didn’t spike as high which would normally signal your body to store fat.


Preventing Weight Gain!

Many carbs contain dietary fiber, which is actually an indigestible complex carbohydrate. Studies have found that increasing your fiber intake generally helps you lose weight, while decreasing your fiber generally makes you gain weight. (If you want to learn more about preventing weight gain: Smart Ways to Keep Off Those Already Shed Pounds (Part 2) )


Preventing Diseases!

Speaking of fiber… Fibrous foods such as complex carbohydrates help your body fight certain diseases. Whole grains can help prevent the onset of many diseases like type 2 diabetes by controlling your blood sugar.


Aiding in Recovery!

During a single exercise session, actively exercised muscle tissue can deplete up to 60-70% of it’s stored glycogen (the fuel it uses to do work).  In the absence of sufficient glycogen, the muscle tissue (and you) become very tired due to the fact that your proverbial “fuel tanks” are now close to empty. Glycogen attracts water in a 3:1 ratio, which means that recovering muscle is three times as hungry for water as it is for glucose. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods rich in water accelerate the refueling process which then allows you to exercise again. Also, the hydrated muscle tissue is less likely to develop cramps, which are not only painful but can significantly slow down the recovery process.


Keeping Your Heart Healthy!

Research suggests that increasing your soluble-fiber intake (a type of fiber found in carb-rich foods like oatmeal and beans) by 5 to 10 grams each day could result in a 5% drop in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Similarly, people who eat more whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc..) also tend to have lower LDL cholesterol and higher “good” HDL cholesterol.


Keeping You Sharp!

A study from Tufts University found that women who followed a “low-carbohydrate” diet for a week (they were told to completely eliminate carbohydrates from their diets) did worse on tests of working memory (i.e., why did I walk into this room?) and visuospatial memory (remembering locations on a map) than their counterparts who followed an overall “low-calorie” diet.


(and last but certainly not least)

Making You Happy!

(which is probably the best one anyway?! Am I right?!?!)

Researchers suspect that carbs promote the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very low carbohydrate diet for a year – which allowed only 20 to 40 grams of carbs daily – experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those who ate a low-fat, high-carb diet.


So what do you say? How about we all give carbs a chance???

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