With the recent surge in the popularity of low-carb diets, people have started wondering about the importance of carbohydrates. Does our body really need carbs?
The answer is yes. Carbs are an essential macronutrient for the human body.
Carbohydrates are the human body’s preferred source of energy. Understanding what carbohydrates are and how the body uses them will help you build and maintain a healthy relationship with both yourself and the food that you eat.
The Importance of Carbohydrates: Why We Need Carbs
The human body converts carbohydrates into glucose and other sugars it needs for fuel. As the body’s primary energy source, carbs help maintain your energy level, blood sugar level, metabolism, digestion, and more.
When carbohydrates are not available, your body can break down proteins and fats into usable forms of energy. However, these are much less efficient sources of energy and are created at the expense of your muscles and organs.
Eating carbs supports muscle health by allowing the body to use proteins to maintain and repair muscles, including the heart. When its preferred energy source is not available, your body will shift to turning mainly proteins into glucose. This is a more efficient source of energy than fat, which breaks down into ketones. This means that your body won’t have enough proteins available to repair your heart and muscles, which break down a little every time you use them.
Remember, that your heart is constantly in use, pumping blood to your body!
Signs You Need To Eat More Carbs
How do you know when your body is running low on carbs? Aside from hunger and sugar cravings, you will start to notice some of these more subtle signs.
- Mental fog/trouble thinking
- Feeling shaky
- Low blood sugar
- Decreased stamina and endurance
Simply eating carbs will usually reduce these symptoms fairly quickly, especially if the source is a piece of fruit or a simple carb as these digest and break down quickly.
What are simple carbohydrates? You are about to find out!
Carbohydrates are made up of sugar, starch, and fiber. While they can be classified in many ways, the two main types of carbs are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. So, what’s the difference?
Simple carbohydrates are made up of mostly sugar or refined starch. Here are a few examples of simple carbs:
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice
- White, refined grains (bread, rice, pasta, etc.)
This category also includes food and drinks made with these simple carbs, such as candy, baked goods, and soda.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of primarily starch and fiber. These carbs take longer to digest, so the energy that they provide lasts longer. The fiber will also help improve digestion, get rid of toxins, and help lower cholesterol.
Examples of complex carbs include:
Whole grains (oats. whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
- Whole fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, melon, etc.)
- Fiber-rich vegetables
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, carrots, turnips, etc.)
- Beans and peas
Fruits and vegetables also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy body. So, enjoy them whenever you feel like it. I love a good fruit salad any time of year!
Good vs Bad Carbs
Most people talk about good carbs and bad carbs. So, what is a good carb?
The truth is that all carbs have the potential to be good carbs!
Dieting and weight loss rules often recommend eating mostly complex carbohydrates, because the fiber helps fill you up. However, complex carbs won’t cut it when what your body needs is a quick burst of energy at a particular moment. Instead of worrying about what a good carb is or whether you should eat brown rice when you are craving white rice. Try listening to what your body is telling you. It knows what you need!
Enjoy A Variety Of Carbs For A Healthy Life
Both complex and simple forms of carbohydrates can provide you with essential sugars that your body needs to function at its best. Don’t deprive yourself of the fruit or slice of cake you find yourself wanting simply because you think you are being good or making a healthy choice by doing so. When your body craves one of these things, it is trying to remind you of the importance of carbohydrates for fueling nearly everything you do.
You won’t wreck your health or your body with one meal or even a whole week’s meals, so just relax and enjoy life.
You really can have your cake and eat it too!