Fresh fruit, juicy corn on the cob, and toasty buns for grilled burgers…This summer, fuel your body with carbs confidently knowing the good, bad, and ugly truth about this food group.
THE GOOD Consuming carbohydrates for fuel and flavor
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients the body uses for energy. Their major tasks are powering the brain and body, fueling us up for physical activity, and providing fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Since energizing a human is no easy task, our bodies need plenty of carbs…45–65% of our daily energy (calories) to be more precise. It’s no wonder carbs are found so abundantly in our food!
Sources of Carbohydrates
- Starch + Grains: flour, rice, oats, pasta, cookies, bread, corn, quinoa
- Fruits: all fruits–fresh, frozen, dried, juiced
- Vegetables: peas, beans, potatoes
- Beans: tofu, tempeh, lentils
- Dairy: milk, yogurt
- Other: sweetened beverage, candies, syrups, jellies
Eating a wide variety of carbohydrates promotes:
- Easy digestion and healthy gut flora
- Steady blood sugars
- Heart health
- Adequate vitamin + mineral intake
THE BAD Cutting carbohydrates
Cutting carbs comes with physical and psychological consequences. The best and simplest nutrition advice is: Eat a variety and eat adequately. Consume carbs of all kinds, aiming for a 50/50 mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates. True nourishment is all about balance. As for adequacy, make carbohydrates a part of each meal and snack. Remember: this macronutrient is what keeps our bodies running! Limiting carbohydrates disrupts metabolism, leaving the body under-fueled and wanting to overeat. The cravings we resist tend to be the ones that persist, so the foods we avoid often end up being the ones we overeat.
THE UGLY Feeling guilty for eating carbohydrates
Guess what? Our bodies are far less judgmental about the foods we eat than we are! Our body does not see cake. It sees a delicious combination of carbs, fat, and protein. Our body does not see a sandwich. It sees a satisfying mixture of carbs, fiber, protein, and fat. Ultimately, the carbohydrates we eat break down to glucose before being used by the body.
There’s a common misconception that we must label foods as “good” or “bad” to control the foods we eat. This may make sense on the surface, but we were all born with taste buds, hunger and fullness cues, hormones, emotions, and a brain to acknowledge and respond to these signals. Coming to know and understand interoception—a lesser-known sense that helps us understand and feel what’s going on inside our bodies—is the path to true nourishment and supports the quest to care for ourselves in the best way possible. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you rebuild body trust and further develop self-regulation skills to fuel your body according to your body rather than a list of diet-culture do’s and don’ts.
Our innate desire for carbohydrate foods, the body’s main source of fuel, is not by mistake. As humans, we may overeat or misjudge our body’s cues at times leaving us feeling less than our best, but don’t be discouraged! Nutrition is about the big picture. Let go of the guilt, and get curious and use your experiences with food as data to drive a deeper understanding of your body.
Your body works for you, so eat for it with an adequate and wide variety of carbohydrates. This summer, rest assured that carbs taste good and are good for you!
Caroline Pruente, MS, RDN, LDN is a nutrition therapist and Registered Dietitian at Memphis Nutrition Group. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit MemphisNutritionGroup.com.