Every few years or so it seems like another major nutrient is completely blamed for destroying our health. In the 90’s, fat became synonymous with heart disease and every manufacturer started rolling out the fat-free options, usually substituting added sugars so that people could tolerate the taste. We now know, of course, that fat is essential to good health and that striking the right balance between types is what is important. So for now, fat is once again in our good graces.
Today, it is carbohydrates that are under attack. From crazy diets that exclude them completely to well-meaning medical professionals who can’t find the truth amongst the mythology, it seems that everyone is vilifying an entire class of nutrients, which I’m sure you can guess is completely bonkers.
While budgeting for the appropriate amount of sweets and added sugars is important, carbs as a whole are absolutely essential to a well-balanced diet. They do not cause weight gain. In fact, a gram of carbohydrate has the exact same calories as a gram of protein, arguably the most celebrated nutrient of the moment. Furthermore, carbs are critical to many important bodily functions. The brain, for one, can ONLY run on carbohydrates. There’s a reason you feel foggy when you don’t eat them. Also, carbs literally make us happy, helping regulate serotonin and other important mood lifting chemicals in our bodies.
Different carbs offer different nutrition super powers. Focusing on eating whole grains and fruit is a healthy habit to get into, at least at a certain point in your recovery, and fun foods and dessert comprised of simple sugars are best eaten in moderation. At the end of the day, even a brownie (aka “junk food”) can be good for you if it makes you happy!
So, the next time you hear someone bragging about how they haven’t had a carb in weeks, just know that what they’re really saying is that they’ve fallen for the biggest nutrition myth of the day and rest easy knowing that your mind and body are running on the carbohydrate-fueled truth.
by Rick Elliott, Nutritional Consultant