The way carbs are demonized today, it’s no wonder so many people actually fear eating them. I used to be one of them. As a recovering “carb-o-phobe,” I’m now on the flip side and advocate eating complex carbs for optimal nutrition.
You’ve probably heard of the term, “good carbs versus bad carbs” and all that really equates to is non-refined carbs versus refined carbs. Non-refined carbs are foods that contain a complete source of carbohydrates that include natural sugars and more importantly- fiber. Refined carbs are foods like white bread, enriched flour, and sugar which have been highly processed to the point that little to no nutrition remains.
Your body uses “good carbs,” which are non-refined, complex carbs to do a host of important issues in the body. The best complex carbs come from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eating more of these foods will only benefit you and without them, you’ll likely suffer a number of health consequences.
Here’s Why You Need Complex Carbs:
Carbs provide the body with energy immediately. That’s their purpose by nature and depriving yourself of them will leave you tired and fatigued all day long. I suggest eating them earlier in the day when you need most of your energy in the form of some whole grains, which take all day long to burn through your system. These carbohydrates from whole grains release slowly into the bloodstream so you never suffer a “crash” like you do with caffeine or sugar. This means you’ll have energy all day long and won’t have to deal with the afternoon slump.
Since carbs contain fiber, they help aid digestion and assist in regularity. This is one benefit of eating whole food sources of carbs such as whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits instead of opting for processed foods.
Carbohydrates provide you with energy so they’re important for an optimal metabolism. Without energetic calories (which is essentially what carbs are), your metabolism will suffer quickly. Most people assume that because a low-carb diet can lead to weight loss that it will improve their metabolism, but this is actually the opposite of being true. While you might lose some weight without carbs, your metabolism will actually suffer and slow down the longer you prolong the diet. Again, eating whole food sources of carbs is the best way to optimize your energy, weight, and metabolism.
Certain carbs like oatmeal, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bananas, and brown rice contain large amounts of tryptophan, which relax the body and help put you to sleep. Oatmeal even helps your body produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep. Eating some complex carbs at night before bed can help you sleep more soundly through the night and fall asleep faster.
5. Filling Fiber
Fiber doesn’t just regulate your digestion – it also keeps you full a really long time. While the daily recommended amount is only 25-30 grams of fiber, most plant-based meals provide much more which means you’ll stay fuller longer. For a super-filling meal, aim for 10-15 grams of fiber from your foods and try not to eat meals that contain less than five grams of fiber for optimal satisfaction. All whole food sources of carbohydrates are excellent sources of fiber. Fiber also slows down your blood sugar so you don’t get hungry quite as quickly and it keeps your glycemic levels steady all day long.
6. Brain Function
Your body also uses carbohydrates for optimal brain function. Foods such as vegetables, oats, quinoa, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit all contain an array of carbs that aid in mental focus and a healthy mood. Without carbs, you may become foggy-headed, feel light-headed, have a hard time concentrating, feel sad or depressed, or just not feeling like yourself. You may also have a harder time retaining information. Don’t deprive your brain of carbs- it needs them!
7. Nervous System Function
While sugar makes you jittery and anxious, complex carbs help provide a grounding effect to the body and reduce nervousness and anxiety. It’s the reason you often feel less stressed after having a yummy bowl of oatmeal, a simple banana, or a dish made with sweet potatoes. Carbs provide your body with exactly what they need all the way down to your nervous system. They help your body produce a number of enzymatic reactions and bring balance in just about every way possible.
What to Avoid:
The types of carbs you’ll want to avoid are all refined grains and quick sources of sugar such as: enriched flour, products made “with whole grains” (which indicates they’re not 100 percent whole grain), evaporated cane juice, cane syrup, cane sugar, sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, and even “healthy sugars” like tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, coconut syrup, and maple syrup. Your body processes these very quickly and they can alter your blood sugar in a negative way. Avoid buying bread, rolls, cereals, and other processed foods that contain refined grains or sugars like those mentioned above. You’re much better off eating whole grains, using stevia or fruit to sweeten your foods, and nixing most processed options altogether.
Celebrate carbs and learn to love them – they’re sure to love you right back!
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Image source: Quinoa Salad With Creamy Balsamic Dressing