Have you ever been on a diet that limited carbohydrates? Or have you decided pasta is off limits forever, or until the next time your neighbor makes his award-winning lasagna? The NewStart philosophy sums it up this way: balanced and personalized nutrition supports a healthy, active lifestyle. Eating the right foods, supplementing your healthy diet with dietary supplements, and regular exercise is key. We use the 80-20-100 rule which says: Getting and maintaining results is 80% Nutrition, 20% Fitness, and 100% Mindset. We also know that healthy aging is 70% lifestyle meaning what we do, how we eat, sleep, move our bodies and engage our minds; and 30% genes, meaning what we inherit.
The question is, why are we not using carbohydrates for energy and instead, avoiding them at all costs to lose weight and get healthy?
It’s Time to Tell the Truth About Carbs
We are going to get smart on the subject of carbohydrates. That’s right: the macronutrient most likely to have a severe identity crisis. A subject of many love/hate relationships with the vast majority of the American population! It’s time to seek the truth and be carbohydrate responsible!
What ARE carbohydrates anyway?
Carbohydrates, or Carbs, are a KEY form of energy for physical activity. AND, P.S. Athletes need more of them!
When we consume carbs, our bodies want to use them by converting them quickly to usable energy. Think about carbs as we do gas for our car. Without fuel, our cars won’t run. Without carbs, our bodies have less getup and go! AND, with enough carbs, protein can do its first job, maintain and rebuild muscles and vital organs. Without enough carbs, we end up using protein in our body as fuel. This is problematic because providing energy is a secondary function for protein vs. its first priority: muscles and organs.
As the second macro-nutrient, our goal is to consume 40% of our calories from carbohydrates. That’s right 40%.
If you have ever said something like: “I avoid carbs at all costs.” Or, “I’m cutting carbs out of my diet.” You have unwittingly committed to cutting out 40% of your calories, and your main source of energy. This is not a good idea. Having a good carbohydrate plan is primary to your own energy and vitality!
Carbs also provide us with the necessary fiber for our digestive systems. We review the ins and outs of digestion in the Healthy Digestion module in our NewStart online weight management lessons. We will focus on the category overall in this blog post.
Complex v. Simple Carbs
So let’s break this down a little bit here. I want to make sure that we are all very clear on something: Not all carbs are “good for you” kinds of carbs. Therefore, the love/hate. Preferred carbs are what we call “complex” carbs. The “not preferred” category is called Simple Carbs.
In the preferred category we can find complex carbs here:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Seeds like pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds.
- Peas, beans, lentils
- Whole grains: breads, pastas, cereals
- Cooked as the grain itself: brown rice, farrow, bulgar
- Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup
Complex carbs, actually give us more sustained energy because they are broken down over a longer period of time. They contribute to stabilizing our blood sugar,and help us feel more satisfied, longer. Why? They have a fiber component to them that helps slow whole game down and deliver not just energy, but nutrients to our cells. And an added benefit: we will feel fuller, longer!
By comparison, simple carbs give us short-term energy which will lead to a quick decline or crash…we get cranky, tired, and quickly search for the next pick-me-up we can find.
Simple carbs look like this:
- Non-whole grain: donuts, bagels, muffins, toast, breakfast cereal, pancakes, waffles,
- Cookies, cake, brownies,
- White rice
Simple carbs feel empty in our bodies, providing us with little nutrition and a quick burst of energy. A day that leads off with a simple carb can lead us to a never-ending ride on the blood sugar roller coaster, cravings, and compulsive eating. Not a pretty sight.
How Many Carbs Can I Eat?
Ok, we’re going to take it down one more level:
Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables. We are fond of saying “eat all the fruits and veggies you want!” Carbohydrates are found in refined grains as well. But you don’t hear us saying “eat all the grains in all the land!” do you? No.
The calories in equal portions of fruits/veggies and grains can be very different. For example, one serving of a fruit or veggie is between 35-70 calories. But in a similar portion of grain the calories are much higher; for example, one serving of white rice is 200 calories.
This is why our perfect plate is ½ fruits and veggies and ¼ grains and ¼ protein. Fruits and vegetables are fewer calories per bite and come complete with all sorts of beautiful fiber and micro/phytonutrients to round out your body’s needs. It’s quite beautiful, really.
Keep in mind, without complex carbs your body won’t have the fuel it needs to support your daily mental and physical activities, or energy to provide stamina. For you active exercising people out there: during the days you exercise you need more carbs than when you are not active!
Daily goal: 40% carbs!
The Bottom Line
We know that carbs are a necessary component of our nutrition plans. They provide the energy we need to get on with our lives on a daily basis. Consumed in complex carb form we get sustained energy as well as stabilized blood sugar throughout the day. Lots of nutrition here – with happy cells for a happy you!
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