Are Carbs Bad?
The BioPerformance Institute
November 18, 2022
Are carbohydrates bad? This is a common question I get as a registered dietitian. Short answer… NO. Carbohydrates are NOT bad. However, diet culture likes to tell us carbohydrates are evil and should be avoided … hello KETO diet. Although the ketogenic diet may have some health benefits, there are some health risks as well. I find it common amongst my clients and athletes, this mindset that carbohydrates are “bad” and I want to dispel this myth!
First, there are no “good” or “bad” foods! Yes, are there foods that are more nutrient-dense. However, all foods can fit into a healthy diet. When we label foods as good or bad, we imply that there is a moral component to food. This can lead to feelings of guilt or shame if we consume “bad” foods. Guess what? Food is simply food. Food is meant to nourish our bodies. It is necessary for growth, health, and life itself. However, it also provides us with pleasure, connection, comfort, satisfaction, joy, memories and so many other things! This emotional component to food is just as important as our food choices when trying to achieve balance and harmony within our diet.
Second, any diet that endorses intense restrictions or eliminations of foods is a red flag to me. These diets may be appealing to some because they are marketed as a quick fix. However, most of the time these diets are not successful long term, because of the restrictive nature of the diet and the inability to adhere to it. Also, with intense restrictions or drastic eliminations, we can miss out on nutrients that are vital to our health. This can result in nutrition deficiencies which can carry negative health implications.
To achieve a balanced diet we need carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide us with ENERGY, along with fiber and many vitamins and minerals. We can find carbohydrates in grains/bread products, beans/legumes, dairy, fruits, baked goods, and starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates are essential to our diet. If you are an athlete or active person, they are vital for performance and recovery.
I will say, all carbs are not created equal. When it comes to carbohydrates, I like to encourage my clients and athletes to focus more on the QUALITY of their carbohydrates rather than the quantity. Now, don’t get me wrong, portion sizes are still important. However, I find by focusing on the quality of carbohydrates in our diet we can see major health benefits. When I talk about quality carbohydrates, I am referring to whole foods, whole grains, unprocessed and unrefined foods. When we consume these foods, our bodies are getting more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber.
So, what are the health benefits? Research shows an increase in dietary fiber reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), blood pressure and inflammation. All of these decrease the risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Fiber also keeps our blood sugars more stable and helps with satiety, which can be beneficial for weight loss. As a goal, men need about 35g of fiber/day and women need about 25g/day. So, choose high-fiber options when you can. This would be anything that has 5g of fiber or more per serving of food. The vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients we get from quality carbohydrates, all help with fighting inflammation and decrease our risk for nutrition deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies impact many components of our health, such as our hormone health, bone health, digestive health, brain function, blood disorders, etc. If you have nutrient deficiency, you can see a variety of side effects, all dependent on what nutrient you are deficient in.
Hopefully this sheds some light on the many great nutrition benefits of carbohydrates. Next time you go grocery shopping, assess the quality of your carbohydrates! Ask yourself, is this whole grain? How much fiber is in here? Are there added sugars or artificial sweeteners? Try to find and choose items that are whole foods, high in fiber, whole grain, and don’t have added sugars or artificial sweeteners!
All in all, carbohydrates are amazing and something most people should include in their diet! They give us energy, provide fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for a well-balanced diet. Including carbohydrates in your diet may lead to greater success when trying to lose weight by no longer restricting foods. It may lead to improved sports performance and recovery, and increased energy levels. The best diet for you is a diet that you can stick to. I recommend focusing on the quality of your carbohydrates to maximize the health benefits. Keep in mind that everyone’s individual needs are different, and what may work for someone will not work for you. If you are interested in learning more or want more information on what your specific needs are, give me a call to schedule an appointment today at 208-262-4729!