All About Carbs: Here's Everything You Need to Know

What are carbs?

Carbs provide fuel in the form of sugars and are the primary source of energy for your muscles, liver and brain, among other tissues and systems. Inadequate carb consumption can lead to lethargy, irritability, shakiness and in the presence of prolonged inadequate calories, death.

Additional benefits

  • Fiber - You cannot digest many fibers, yet it is still necessary for cardiovascular and metabolic health and digestive health as the food source for the good bacteria in your gut.

  • Vitamins & minerals - key components to keep your cells functioning properly and growing or repairing normally

  • Phytonutrients & antioxidants - micromolecules that are necessary to reduce damage to your cells and reduce cancer risk. While there are over 100,000 different known phytonutrients in whole foods, more are continually being discovered.

Our take

Carbs are an essential part of the diet, particularly whole plant sources.

A few reasons carbs are necessary:

  1. Energy! As the primary source of fuel, glucose is needed for your cells, and therefore you, to function optimally. Cells particularly susceptible to negative impacts of low glucose are muscle, brain and digestive tract cells including in your liver and colon.

  2. If you undereat the body could think your body is in a stressed state, leading to increased cortisol and increased storage of calories in the form of fat, often especially around the abdomen.

  3. Fiber is needed for gut health! The healthy bacteria in your digestive tract need fiber as their food source. Without it, they cannot proliferate and opportunistic bacteria, yeast and fungi can overgrow leading to digestive and eventually systemic inflammation and disease.

  4. Fiber is needed to support healthy lipids. Fiber binds to cholesterol in your digestive tract for it to be eliminated in your stool. Without adequate fiber, this cholesterol continues to be reabsorbed and increases the cholesterol circulating in your arteries.

  5. If you overeat on carbohydrates, just as with any food, you're likely going to gain weight. Hence, eating the appropriate portions is necessary.

Food pairing with carbs

Food pairing is important for satiety in addition to health. It is difficult to feel satisfied and stay satisfied on carbohydrates alone, and this is not the aim. This is why we suggest balanced meals with ~25% of your plate from high fiber starches (carbs), ~25% of your plate lean protein and 50% vegetables (carbs), with a dash of healthy fat. This ideal balance allows for longer satiation from protein, fat and all of that wonderful fiber from the starches and vegetables. It also gives the proper ratios to fuel your body.

Avoid and optimize

Carbohydrate quality matters as refined carbs have deleterious impacts on your health, while complex carbs exert beneficial effects.

  • Avoid/limid simple and refined carbs - table sugar, syrups, juices, nectars, white flour, white rice, packaged and processed foods, pastes, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, sweets, desserts, cereals

  • Optimize complex/whole carbs - beans, lentils, root vegetables, all non starchy vegetables (yes all!), fruit, whole grains such as wild rice, barley, oats, whole wheat and any plant food that is unprocessed or minimally processed

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