Ever since the late Dr. Atkins wrote his world-rocking books about the dietary dangers of carbohydrates, the world has near collectively shunned carbs under the belief that carbohydrates make you fat. But in recent years many nutritionists—and failed Atkins dieters—have been rethinking this conventional wisdom.
To find out if carbohydrates make you fat you must first understand what carbohydrates are and how your body uses them. This information will help you make smarter carb choices without sacrificing a key source of energy.
Keep reading for the answer to the elusive question, do carbohydrates make you fat?!
What Are Carbohydrates
In its simplest form carbohydrates are sugar molecules made up of the compounds oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. Carbs are found in a wide selection of foods and forms. Some foods which contain carbohydrates include popcorn, beans, pasta and milk. The most common forms of carbohydrates are starches, fibers and sugars.
Now that you know what carbs are you probably feel a little silly for being so afraid of these sugar molecules. But don’t worry about that because now you know and you’re no longer afraid, right?
The reason so many people believe that carbs make you fat and avoid them like the plague is because they don’t realize how essential carbohydrates are to a healthy and functioning body. Carbs aren’t just these delicious but nutritionally irrelevant foods; it is an important source of fuel that your body needs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the human body uses carbs to produce glucose, which is what your body needs for energy to walk up the stairs, digest food, think and pretty much everything else you each day.
Simple vs. Complex
In the world of zero-sum dieting, carbohydrates have been deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by the masses. Although technically true, it is more accurate and easier to understand if we refer to them as simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple and complex carbohydrates are the 2 types of carbohydrates, and to understand if carbs make you fat you have to understand the importance of each.
Simple carbohydrates include both so-called good and bad carb foods, which is why it’s so important to stay away from the good-bad dichotomy.
Some simple carbs include foods with natural sugars like vegetable milk, dairy milk and fruits. But we know that fruit like apples are simple carbohydrates but they also have a high fiber content which gives them nutritional value. Other simple carbohydrates include foods that have sugar added to them during processing and refining.
If your food is a simple carbohydrate, look for ingredients on the nutritional label like; corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, high fructose syrup, sucrose and corn sweetener.
Complex carbohydrates such as dietary fiber and starch, on the other hand, must be broken down before the body can rely on them as a source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are the foods you should have more of in your diet because they provide you with vital nutrients in addition to calories.
Get more complex carbs in your diet by eating high fiber and starchy foods like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, beans and vegetables.
Do Carbohydrates Make You Fat?
So, do carbohydrates make you fat? Absolutely not, carbohydrates provide you with an essential source of energy which allows you to do important things like workout.
What can make you fat is eating too many carbohydrates, especially too many simple carbs with lots of calories and little to no nutritional value. The best way to make sure carbohydrates don’t make you fat is to adhere to recommended daily suggestions.
The Institutes of Medicine recommend that most adults eat 130 grams of carbohydrates each day, but pregnant women require a higher intake of carbs. This doesn’t mean you need to count every single grab of carbs that you eat, just stick to (mostly) complex carbohydrates and fruit to ensure you get enough carbohydrates.
Reducing Carb Intake
If you’re worried that you may be getting too many carbohydrates in your diet, simply reduce your carb intake and make sure you’re eating whole grains to get your carbs. The key is to make sure you’re eating carbohydrates that give you essential vitamins and minerals. If you’re going to consume the calories your body should be getting some nutritional benefit.
Foods like refined (simple) carbohydrates get broken down easily, leaving you hungry shortly after consuming them. This can cause problems with your weight loss because it leads to overeating. But that’s not the only problems with carbohydrates that are digested easily; according to the Harvard School of Public Health these foods can contribute to weight gain and impede weight loss while increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Healthy Sources of Carbs All Day
Avoid eating too many carbohydrates in your diet, but make sure the ones you do eat are the right kind. To avoid asking yet again ‘do carbohydrates make you fat’ greatly reduce refined carbohydrates in your diet.
To make sure you’re getting enough of the right kinds of carbohydrates in your diet, try incorporating them into each meal of the day by following these tips;
- Add oatmeal to your breakfast choices.
- Swap white bread toast for whole wheat bread in the morning.
- Use whole wheat bread for sandwiches.
- Substitute rice for potatoes in some meals.
- Beans are good for your heart and for your waist…and a good source of carbs.
- Fix a carb craving with whole wheat pasta.
- Avoid high carb beverages with no nutritional value and lots of carbs like soda.
Moderation is the key to avoid letting carbohydrates make you fat. Good health and successful weight loss require you to eat the right kinds of carbs and eat them in moderate amounts. Instead of eating potatoes and pasta as regular side dishes, add more vegetables to your plate.
Are you a carb addict? If so read our review of Eat Stop Eat to see how intermittent fasting can help you respond better to those pesky carb cravings.