The Villainization of Carbohydrates


In my field of work and even just in my everyday life, I hear a lot of lamenting about carbs. “I’ve got to stop eating carbs” or “I’m on a new no-carb diet.” Readers rejoice. I want you to eat carbs. Why? Your brain runs almost exclusively on carbohydrates. They provide energy for us to get through the day and when we eat the right ones, they provide important nutrients to keep us healthy. If you want to get technical, fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates, soooo there’s that.

The truth is carbohydrates are not the enemy. However, the type of carbohydrate and quantity you are consuming can be. What’s more problematic are the foods that they typically replace- fruits and vegetables.  Consuming more whole grain carbohydrates that are minimally processed can help us all to get our closer to our daily requirement for fiber which helps to lower cholesterol, maintain stable blood sugar levels and keep us regular. The whole grain versions of our favorites also serve to help keep us fuller longer.

It’s definitely true that cutting back on these often calorie-dense foods can help you to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean you have to end your love affair with sandwiches altogether. Eating the right kinds of carbs, making sensible swaps and eating smaller portions is the way to enjoy carbohydrate foods which we all need and love. 

The Takeaway: Carbohydrates are not the enemy. However, the problem can be the type of carbohydrate and quantity we consume, and most importantly the foods that they tend to replace- fruits and vegetables.

Take action this week:

-          Vow to make some small swaps in your kitchen. Take 2 refined carbohydrates you typically have in your pantry and swap out for the whole grain version. For example, trade your regular penne pasta and white rice for whole grain pasta and brown rice.

-         If you are trying to cut back on your calories, take your typical quantity of carbohydrates at meals and cut it in half. Replace that with a double serving of vegetables or add a fresh, whole fruit to your meal.

-          The next time you eat a sandwich, out or at home, request whole grain bread. If you are trying to minimize your calorie intake for weight loss, ask for only one piece of bread or take the top piece off and toss it as soon as you get it. You’ll never miss it and you’ll feel good about your choice. 

I’d love to know, what tips and techniques have helped you to decrease your refined carbohydrate intake and what swaps have you already made?

- Tara