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Don't Be Afraid Of Carbs


lots of pasta

Carbs should not be viewed as the enemy, especially considering your cells and, consequently, your entire body depend on these energy-providing nutrients. Of course, the quantity and quality matter.


In today's world, where everyone scrolling through social media is likely familiar with the term "macros" – referring to macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – it's important to set the record straight. Just for the facts, here's a basic one: carbohydrates provide 4.1 kcal (17.2 kJ) of energy per gram, just like proteins.

We need carbohydrates to ensure our physical and mental health and well-being. However, due to the influence of many trendy and low-carb diets, carbohydrates have gained a rather bad reputation lately. This has led even those who have no need to reduce their daily (average) carbohydrate intake to be hesitant or averse to even mentioning them.


It's time to dispel some myths about this. That's why this blog post was born.


The Role of Carbs:

Carbs aren't just a source of energy; they play a vital role in muscle function, brain activities, such as thinking, memory, and learning processes. They contribute to our concentration, participate in the functions of the autonomic nervous system, kidney function, wound healing, and hormonal activities. They also serve as nutrients for red blood cells, certain white blood cells, bone marrow cells, and brain cells. In essence, there's hardly any aspect of our lives that doesn't involve some need for carbohydrates.


Sources of Carbs (You Might Not Expect):

It might be easier to list where there are no carbs: in lean meats, eggs, plant oils, and animal fats. Grains, grain products, vegetables (!), potatoes, fruits, honey, plant syrups, refined sugar, milk, some dairy products, legumes, mushrooms, alcoholic beverages, sodas, and even nuts all contain (varying amounts of) carbohydrates – of course, in different compositions.


colorful legumes and beans

Not All Carbs Are Created Equal:

In reality, carbohydrates are a collective term, and there are various types. Here's a brief table for illustration, outlining the classification of carbohydrates with examples!


table for classification of carbs

How Much Carbs Do You Need Per Day?

Daily carbohydrate requirements are influenced by biological gender, age, body type, physical parameters, the intensity and type of physical and mental activity, overall health status, and factors such as carbohydrate metabolism integrity and hormonal status (e.g., diabetes, insulin resistance, which can modify the requirements).


Therefore, it's more appropriate to mention average quantities and energy percentages (meaning the percentage of daily energy intake derived from carbohydrates). The physiologically necessary minimum carbohydrate amount hovers around 120-130 grams per day. This is what an average, healthy adult needs for basic bodily functions and the ability to think.


Having less leads to a decrease in both physical and mental performance in the short and long term as well. It's advisable that carbohydrates make up an average of 50-55% of your daily energy intake. This translates to approximately 244-268 grams in a 2000 kcal energy diet. Of course, this is just an average, as there may be days when your body requires more and others when it needs less.


Too Much and Too Little Are Both Disadvantageous:

If you take "carb reduction" to extremes, whether avoiding carb-rich raw materials, foods, or starving for any reason, it will weaken you physically and mentally. It diminishes muscle strength, endurance, concentration, memory, and thinking speed. So, it's not a good path, as you'll likely realize after a few days.


smiling woman is making bruschetta in the kitchen

Of course, the goal isn't to swing to the other extreme either. Excessively consumed, unutilized carbohydrates are stored as unnecessary energy sources, increasing fat deposits. Refined carbohydrates (sugars) not only raise blood sugar levels potentially beyond necessary limits but also harm your teeth, especially if consumed as candies or sugary drinks.


Given the above, you can relax now. For example, if you're enjoying Secontaste Brewer’s Granola made from spent brewer's grains and your aim is to reduce your daily carbohydrate intake, it's good to know that Secontaste granolas have fewer carbs than traditional ones due to their production process, and their fiber content is outstanding as well. You've probably read about the benefits of fiber - if not, you can do so here and here, - it is your friend, especially your gut flora’s.


Next time, I'll dive into the glycemic index, because understanding it helps both the healthy and those with diabetes or insulin resistance better grasp the relationships in their diet. Because it's not just about the fact that not all carbs are equal, but alongside quantity, other factors matter concerning blood sugar level changes.

 

Judit Schmidt dietitian, health educator, workplace well-being program manager. Engaged in prevention, education, and background work related to health, well-being, and nutrition. Provides assistance in conveying knowledge on nutrition, health, and well-being through article writing, blogging, editing, proofreading, and creating professional texts on these topics. Also conducts informative presentations for companies and schools. Her main focus is on disease prevention and creating a balanced and sustainable diet. Her motto: the sunny side of food. Dietitian Judit Schmidt presents her profession and works in a personal, occasionally humorous style on various social media platforms under the name Youteefool.

 

You can find Judit on her website:

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