I cannot tell you how many times I hear people say they need to stop eating carbs so they can lose weight. So I feel like I just have to go ahead and say it…carbohydrates do not make you fat. Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy! A caloric surplus will make you gain weight…but that can be from any and all macronutrients! Don’t just blame the carbs. That is why it is important to take a look at what you are eating in a day. Track where your calories are coming from. How many calories are you consuming all together? Are you drinking your calories? Are you eating too many sweets? Are you not practicing portion control? There could be many factors as to why you are gaining weight or struggling to lose weight. It is important to determine the actual cause before blaming carbohydrates for it all.

You see, carbohydrates are probably the most unnecessarily feared and misunderstood of all the macronutrients. They get such a bad rap and are often thought of as terrible for weight maintenance and weight loss. Diet culture has led many people to believe that carbs will make them fat and the misconception is that by eliminating carbs from their diet, they will have a better chance to shed those unwanted pounds. However, the truth is, most dieters who cut out carbs may indeed see weight loss initially and for a short period of time, however since it isn’t sustainable long-term, the weight is typically put back on.

So, what exactly do carbohydrates do for us? Carbs are our body’s primary fuel source. It is our source of energy and it is an essential macronutrient to keep our bodies nourished. Especially if we are active and working out. Our bodies use carbohydrates to make glucose, which is a form of sugar that is then converted to glycogen and used for energy. Our muscles, including our heart and our brain, depend on this energy to function properly.

However, it is important to understand that not all carbs are created equal. Carbohydrates are split into complex carbs and simple carbs and are made up of three forms: fiber, starch, and sugar. Fiber and starch are the complex carbs, while sugar is a simple carb.

Fiber and starch are the two types of complex carbohydrates. Fiber is especially important because it is essential to hearth health, promotes bowel regularity and the digestive process, as well as helps to control cholesterol. Complex carbs can help reduce the risk of many diseases and they provide essential vitamins, minerals and/or antioxidants. They also take our bodies longer to break them down into glucose. Thus, with longer digestion comes longer-lasting energy, and remember, our body needs this glucose energy to function. Also, since many are higher in fiber and digest more slowly, it makes them more filling, which means they’re a good option for maintaining a healthy weight.

The main sources of dietary fiber include:

Starch is also found in some of the same foods as fiber. The difference is certain foods are considered more starchy than fibrous, such as potatoes (just to be clear, potatoes do still contain fiber).

Other high-starch foods are:

Even simple carbs are not created equal. Fruits, many vegetables, and dairy products are considered simple carbohydrates, but they contain vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health. It is the simple refined carbohydrates that should mostly be eaten on occasion or sparingly. These are foods and drinks such as soda, baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc.), candies, sugary cereal, white bread and pasta, etc.  

It should be noted that if you consume too many carbs, more than your body needs, you likely will notice weight gain. Though this applies to any and all foods and macronutrients. If you are eating in a caloric surplus, you will gain weight. But overall, if eating healthy carbohydrates that fit your body’s macronutrient and caloric needs, they can provide numerous health benefits and also assist with weight loss and maintenance.

To create healthy and well-balanced meals, do not eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. It is best to eat healthy carbohydrates with every meal, along with the proper amount of proteins and fats. Focus on eating a variety of nutritious and colorful foods. Fill your plates with delicious vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. Yes, you can eat bread and pasta, just practice portion control. Last but not least, treat yourself to a cookie or slice of cake every now and then, they can and should be enjoyed every now and then. This will leave you feeling satisfied and like you aren’t restricted or deprived of anything.

To figure out the amount of carbohydrates that work for your body, activity level, and goals, it is always recommended that you speak with a registered dietitian. However, there are also many apps that can also assist with the breakdown of macronutrients. Also, you should always run any new diet or exercise program by your primary physician to ensure that it is safe before you begin!

Now go break free from the mindset that carbs are bad and get those meals prepped with healthy carbohydrates this week!

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