There is a wide range of foods in the carbohydrate category.

Example: both beer and broccoli are carbohydrates.

I know – not exactly equals in the nutrient department.

First I was to discuss the health benefits or carbohydrates then get into the most frequently asked questions about carbs.

By the end of this article, I hope to shift your thinking about this misunderstood macronutrient and empower you to know which carbohydrates to eat and which to avoid.

health benefits of carbohydrates

source of energy

Carbohydrates are a  great source of fuel for the body as they provide both immediate and long term energy.

RNA and DNA

Carbohydrates make up part of the structural framework of DNA and RNA, you know, those scientific structures that make you uniquely you.

healthy gut

Soluble fiber can provide nutrients for the friendly bacteria in your GI tract that help digest food.

regulate cholesterol

Dietary fiber may help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure.

fiber and blood sugar

When you eat a meal that is high in fiber this will help sugar absorb into the bloodstream at a slower rate.

helps you poop

Dietary fiber is a classification of carbohydrates that helps the digestive processes by adding bulk to stool, this helps regular elimination.

are all carbs created equal?

Nope.

Unfortunately both donuts and bananas are under the blanket classification of carbohydrates.

A banana contains roughly 27 grams of carbohydrates and a donut has around 32 grams. This is not a significant difference in carbohydrate content.

However, I’m always going to tell you to eat the banana instead of the donut. A banana has twice the amount of fiber as a donut, and I’m sure you can guess which one comes out as the nutritional heavyweight.

Although this is an oversimplification of the question, you can easily see that there is a large variance in types of carbohydrates. It’s important to make the majority of your carbohydrate intake from healthier whole food sources (banana) and not refined carbohydrates (donut).

USELESS CARBS

Cookies, candy bars, cakes – you know, all the tasty treats.

If you are trying to limit carbs, this is the place to start.

These processed foods have little to no nutritional value and are packed full of refined sugar and sweeteners. Without fiber the sugars in these carbohydrates are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Hello sugar high.

NUTRITIOUS CARBS

My favorite carbs contain a variety of nutrients and are packed full of fiber.

They all happen to be whole foods. Shocking.

Vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit are all rich in carbohydrates.

I wouldn’t ask you to give up these foods for any reason. However, it’s worth discussing what happens when we eat too many carbohydrates in our diet – even if it’s coming from the good stuff. More on that later in this post.

should you stop eating carbohydrates?

Here is the thing.

Whole food carbohydrates are a source of more than just carbs.

For example, lentils and quinoa are a highest in carbohydrates (out of the three macronutrients). Even though they are high in carbs, they are also a great source of plant-based protein along with being rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  

I don’t suggest cutting out whole food plant-based carbohydrates.

Nutritionally, they just have too much to offer.

When it comes to carbohydrates it’s important to think about each individual food. Yes, you should probably limit your cookie intake but don’t stop eating carrots. Instead of analyzing one macronutrient, take a step back and look at the food as a whole, deciding which carbs to eat quickly becomes easier than you think.

start by cutting these carbs –

Fruit juices, soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee beverages (hello Starbucks), cocktails, candy, pastries, cookies, milk chocolate, ice-cream, white bread, white pasta — I think you get the picture.

These foods are essentially empty calories that have very little nutritional value. I wrote an entire article about how eating these carbohydrates affect your blood sugar.

Spoiler alert.

The end result isn’t great.

reduce but don’t eliminate carbs

If you are able cut the crappy carbohydrates from your diet, you’ve already won half the battle.

Here is the thing.

If you glance at the list of healthy carbohydrates you will see a wide range of plant based foods.  Plant-based carbohydrates are often a source of more than just carbs. Take lentils and quinoa for example, they are both a rich source of carbohydrates, but they are also a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole foods carbohydrates offer so much more than “sugar.”

When it comes to carbohydrates, look at the food as a whole.

Yes, you should probably limit your cookie intake, but no, please don’t stop eating cauliflower.

Instead of analyzing one macronutrient, take a step back and look at the food as a whole, deciding which carbohydrates to eat quickly becomes easier than you think.

how many carbohydrates should I eat?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer.

How much of [insert: any food] should I eat?

I’m going to start sounding a little redundant, but, eat as many whole food carbohydrates as you want.

As a follow up to this statement there are two things to keep in mind. If you eat disproportionately more carbohydrates than fat and protein you may have a hard time keeping your blood sugar stable. On top of that, you can gain weight from eating too many carbohydrates (even plant-based).

So, what carbohydrates should you eat?

I know some of us type-A Americans just want a list of dos and don’ts.

However, I try to refrain from classifying food as “good” or “bad.”

When we hold ourselves back from eating a donut it can create a negative mindset around food. Thus phrases like ‘cheat days’ are born. And that’s not what I’m about.

If the majority of your diet is built on healthy foods a chocolate chip cookie every now and again isn’t going to make you gain weight or turn you into a type 2 diabetic. Gradually moving towards less processed and refined carbohydrates is the best advice I can give.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave you hanging.

I created a loosely structured list in attempt to help you eat nourishing foods that make your body feel better. If you dabble in the “eat less of” category every once in a while do not fret about it. Enjoy your donut today and have some broccoli tomorrow.

EAT MOSTLY

broccoli, cauliflower, kale

EAT MODERATELY

broccoli, cauliflower, kale

AVOID EATING

broccoli, cauliflower, kale

should you count carbohydrates?

Have you ever tried counting your daily carbohydrates?

I did once. Thankfully my disdain for math had me quit that real quick.

Counting carbs is like living on a scale. For me it turned food into science and removed the pleasure of eating.

Some might argue that counting carbs is an important part of weight loss. I disagree. Counting carbs is stressful and is often accompanied with shame and guilt. I’m trying to shift your perspective on food. The type of carbohydrate is much more important than the number it represents.

Instead of counting carbs count accomplishments. Did you swap one candy bar for a bunch of medjool dates instead? I call that progress.

Gradually move away from refined processed foods and replace it with plants. You’re already winning.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

I’m eating healthier,
why am I still gaining weight?

Even though dates are healthier than a candy bar – they are still full of sugar.

If we consume more carbohydrates than the body needs for energy the extra sugars are stored as fat.

It’s a rudimentary principal but the bottom line is eating excessive carbs can cause weight gain. Even if it’s just from plants.

If you’re gaining weight or hit a plateau you may simply be eating too many carbohydrates.

—-

Eating a disproportionately more carbohydrates than fat and protein may be another problem.

Excess carbohydrates

If you have gradually changed your diet to represent more plant-based carbs, you’re doing great.

Unfortunately, even if you’re getting carbs from potatoes instead of pastries, too many carbohydrates still means too much sugar.

When carbohydrates are digested the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream to be used as energy. However, excess carbohydrates that aren’t used for fuel by the body will be stored as fat.

That means if you are eating more carbohydrates than your body need for basic functions, the extra sugars will be stored for a later date. Hi love handles 🙂

If you are struggling with weight gain or you feel you have hit a plateau I have a couple of quick tips.

Survey your daily diet and check what type of carbs you are consuming. Are they mostly vegetables, beans, and whole grains? Or are you heavy on the fruit? Are processed and refined foods the majority of your carbohydrate intake?

Do a little diet diary of all the food you eat this week. Where are the majority of your carbohydrates coming from? Whole foods or processed food?

My next tip is small but mighty. Reduce the crappy carbs and increase your fat consumption. Like today.

Incorporating healthy fats into every single meal will help to slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream thus keeping your blood sugar more stable.

The single principal of eating less crappy carbs and more healthy fats should be the tipping point in your weight loss journey.

It’s so effective I’ve made an entire course about it.

takeaway

Stop eating sugar-laden refined carbohydrates.

Whole food carbohydrates are always better than their processed counterparts.

You probably could use more vegetables and less fruits in your diet.

Above ground vegetables have less carbs than below ground vegetables.

Don’t disproportionately eat more carbohydrates than protein and fat.

start by cutting these carbs

Fruit juices, soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee beverages (hello Starbucks), cocktails, candy, pastries, cookies, milk or white chocolate, ice-cream, white bread, white pasta — I think you get the picture.

These foods are essentially empty calories that have hardly any nutritional value. I wrote an entire article about how eating these carbohydrates affect your blood sugar.

Spoiler alert.

The end result isn’t great.

—–

reduce but don’t eliminate carbs

If you are able cut the crappy carbohydrates from your diet, you’ve already won half the battle.

(use what is already there)

how many carbs should I eat?

as many whole food plant based carbs as you wants

There are two caveat that go with that statement.
1. It’s harder to keep your blood sugar stable if you are eating a lot of carbohydrates
2. You can gain weight from eating too many carbs (even plant-based)

If you find yourself struggling to lose weight or your blood sugar seems out of control do some trouble shooting. Take a minute and survey your daily diet.

Are you eating too many sweet fruits (non berries). Are you regularly eating a lot of potatoes, whole wheat pasta, or rice? Are you forgetting to eat fat and protein with each meal?

If your daily diet swings disproportionately towards sweets (even whole food fruits) then try switching out apples for avocados. A few simple steps will get you back on track.

There are a number of low carb diets that tell you not to eat fruit, forgo all tubers, and cut out the grains. It’s difficult to make a blanket statement about which foods to eat and which to cut out. There are three reasons I can think of why people want to reduce their carobhydrates

Making the majority of your carbohydrate intake from whole foods will be better for your health and your waistline.

2018-12-05T19:52:04+00:00