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Myth vs. Reality: Are carbs bad for you?

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Nabil Besri photo
Nabil Besri

January 15, 2024
Carbohydrates have often been unjustly vilified and misunderstood, bearing the blame for a range of health concerns, from weight gain to diabetes. To shed light on the reality behind these misconceptions, I had the opportunity to discuss carbohydrates with our Naturopathic Chef, Asmaa Lahlou. Here's a summary of the valuable insights I gained from our conversation.

In truth, carbohydrates are far more complex than their negative reputation suggests. They come in various forms, and their impact on health is influenced by numerous factors. In this article, we will delve into two prevalent myths and realities surrounding carbohydrates, with a special focus on highlighting the benefits of complex carbs within the context of a plant-rich diet.

Myth 1: Carbs Are Uniquely Fattening

Reality: Carbs Are Not the Culprit

One common misconception is that carbohydrates are uniquely responsible for weight gain. This belief stems from the idea that carbs, especially simple sugars, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to increased fat storage and actually this part is true. However, the reality about carbs is more complex. Did you know that all vegetables are actually carbs, including broccoli, asparagus and artichokes, but they contain far more fiber than starches and that’s what makes a big difference between the carb sources and thus their quality. While excessive intake from any macronutrient can contribute to weight gain, the quality of carbs matters significantly.

Myth 2: Carbs Are Always Unhealthy

Reality: Not All Carbs Are Created Equal

Another prevalent myth is that all carbohydrates are inherently unhealthy. This oversimplification ignores the distinction between simple and complex carbs. Complex carbs, found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables as we just mentioned above, are digested more slowly, providing sustained energy and preventing sudden blood sugar spikes or crashes. They offer numerous health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Benefits of Complex Carbs:

  1. Stable Energy Levels: Complex carbohydrates, found in foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, are digested more slowly, leading to a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This gradual energy release helps maintain stable energy levels throughout the day, preventing energy crashes and fatigue. It allows you to stay focused and alert, making complex carbs an excellent choice for sustained mental and physical performance – as long as it’s not consumed in excess!
  2. Improved Weight Management: Complex carbs are typically more filling and satiating than simple carbs. The fiber content in these foods adds bulk to your meals, promoting a feeling of fullness and reducing overeating. Moreover, fiber found in whole complex carbohydrates, stimulate our metabolism more than the refined versions, increasing our energy expenditure. Request our Weight Loss Awareness replay dedicated to Metabolism. By choosing complex carbs over their refined counterparts, you can manage your weight more effectively and avoid gaining weight.
  3. Better Blood Sugar Control: The slower absorption of complex carbohydrates contributes to better blood sugar control. It prevents rapid spikes in blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. For individuals with pre-diabetes or those at risk, reducing their starchy carbohydrates intake during a period of time to reduce and reverse their insulin resistance can be very beneficial before reintroducing them in the form of complex carbs. This is the kind of work we do in our Authentik WEIGHT-LOSS Group Coaching Program. Request a private conversation with our Naturopathic Chef to find the most appropriate solution for you.
  4. Enhanced Digestion: Complex carbohydrates are a rich source of dietary fibers, which is crucial for digestive health. Fibers promote regular bowel movements, help to prevent constipation, and supports a healthy gut microbiome, which is crucial for our overall health. Additionally, fibers aid in the detoxification process, binding into a variety of toxins and help the body to get rid of toxic compounds.
  5. Heart Health: Consuming complex carbs as part of a balanced diet is associated with improved heart health. The fiber in complex carbohydrates helps lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and promoting its excretion. This, in turn, reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, complex carbs contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, another crucial aspect of heart health.

Incorporating Complex Carbs:

To enjoy the benefits of complex carbohydrates, aim to include a variety of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables in your daily meals. Swap out refined grains for organic whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and sourdough wholegrain bread. Incorporate more fibrous vegetables and lentils, chickpeas, beans into your diet for added fiber and protein. By making these dietary choices, you can harness the advantages of complex carbs for your overall health and well-being.

Supporting Your Health Journey with MyAuthentikSpoon:

At MyAuthentikSpoon, we understand the importance of making informed food choices for better health and our certified naturopathic chef, believes in the place of wholesome carbs within a balanced plant-rich diet. Moderation is key. During our January challenge: “Green January,” we are putting the spotlight on plant-rich nutrition, where complex carbs play a significant role.

The Bottom Line: Balance and Quality Matter

In conclusion, the demonization of carbohydrates oversimplifies a complex issue. While it’s true that excessive consumption of refined carbs and added sugars can lead to health problems, whole-food sources of complex carbohydrates have numerous benefits. Balancing your carbohydrate intake and choosing high-quality, complex carbs can contribute to a healthy and fulfilling diet.

Ultimately, the key to a well-rounded and nutritious diet lies in the choices you make. Understanding the role of carbohydrates and embracing complex carbs as part of a plant-rich diet can help you unlock the potential for lasting well-being and vitality.

Join the Plant-Rich Challenge!

Ready to take part in our food challenge? It’s simple: Just add more plants to your daily diet, like this Vegetarian Paella recipe we shared earlier. Share your creations and join the conversation using #GreenJanuary on social media or in our community. Not a member yet of MyAuthentikSpoon community? No worries, just follow the instructions on the Academy and register, it’s Free!

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