This piece was originally published in our “Fresh Bites” Spring 2022 Owner Newsletter.
If you’re someone who pays any bit of attention to popular nutrition, you may have noticed carbohydrates getting a bad rap in recent years (well, for decades, really). Why is this? Sure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease are legitimate concerns, but carbohydrates can’t be entirely to blame. I think a better explanation for why carbs are so slandered could be attributed to a lack of good nutrition information in the mainstream—where fad diets reign supreme.
MYTH #1 We don’t need carbohydrates.
Fact: Carbohydrates are one of four macronutrients (in addition to fat, protein and water) required in significant amounts to keep us healthy and our bodies running efficiently. The amount of carbs needed varies depending on the individual, but on average, carbohydrates should make up approximately 45-65% of daily calories. Brain and muscle tissue depend first on the energy derived from carbohydrates. Attempting to cut all carbs from one’s diet also means missing out on many nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy.
MYTH #2 We should steer clear of “white” carbs.
Fact: Carbohydrates come in three forms: Sugar, starch and fiber. Sugar or simple carbohydrates are also considered “fast-acting” carbs, as they elevate blood sugar quicker than complex carbs or fiber (1). These include “sweets”, but also milk and certain fruits. Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, include foods like potatoes, grains, beans and green peas (1). Finally, fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that helps us feel full but also performs other important functions in the body like ushering out excess cholesterol and protecting overall gastrointestinal health.
The glycemic index (GI) categorizes carbohydrate foods based on how quickly they are broken down and absorbed by the body (low, medium and high GI) (2). Complex carbs and fiber take a little more time to digest and have a slower impact on blood sugar. However, regardless of the type of carb, they’re ALL ultimately broken down into the same glucose molecules. As such, we shouldn’t fear sugar or starches. They are not bad, they are glucose, which we need. The key is to get a variety and, hopefully, cultivate a healthy relationship with ALL foods.
MYTH #3 Eating too many carbs leads to diabetes and
other health conditions.
Regularly consuming simple carbohydrates/sugar in higher amounts can increase your risk for diabetes, but diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions are much more complicated than simple dietary choices. Genetics plays a significant role in the development of type 2 diabetes (3) and certain lifestyle choices can help decrease your risk or manage symptoms, but there is no shame in receiving any diagnosis. There are always healthy steps we can take that don’t require strict diets or intentional weight loss.
MYTH #4 Cutting out carbs is the secret to diabetes management and weight loss.
Here are some of the healthy behaviors we can engage in to decrease our risk for developing type 2 diabetes and manage blood sugar levels:
Enjoy Carbs Without Fear
Demonizing a particular nutrient sets us up for a tumultuous relationship with food and our bodies. Permitting ourselves to enjoy the foods we like and need will give way to a natural balance and peace. This doesn’t mean we will never face health concerns or need to make changes, but with a few tools in our back pocket, we can avoid the struggle of restrictive diets and mindsets that usually keep us on the hamster wheel, trapped in a cycle.
If you’d like some help addressing health concerns with wholesome food and doable strategies, come see me! I would love to collaborate with you. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-278-1813 ext. 232 to set up an appointment.
1. Types of Carbohydrates. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipesnutrition/
understanding-carbs/types-carbohydrates. Published 2022. Accessed February 15, 2022.
2. Link R. Glycemic Index: What It Is and How To Use It. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/
glycemic-index. Published June 2, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2022.
3. Genetics of Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/geneticsdiabetes.
Published 2022. Accessed February 15, 2022.
4. Semeco A. 14 Easy Ways To Lower Blood Sugar Levels Naturally. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/
nutrition/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar. Published November 30, 2021. Accessed February 15, 2022.