How many of us have ditched carbohydrates in efforts to lose weight? I have. Several times. It has been ingrained in our culture that carbs are the leading cause of weight gain and should be avoided at all costs in our diets. As I got more invested in my fitness journey, I did more research and I actually learned that carbs are not the enemy. More importantly, I learned that not all carbs are created equal. Did you know that vegetables and fruits all fall under the category of carbohydrates? I know, mind-blowing stuff for anyone that is new to the whole nutrition world. Can you imagine a diet ditching all fruits and vegetables? Carbs are an important part of any healthy diet!
Before I break down carbs for you, let me begin with a brief overview. What are carbs anyway? Our diet is meant to be composed of macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Our micronutrients are composed of vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients (sometimes referred to as macros) which is essential for the body. Not only are carbs essential for the body, but they also play an important role when it comes to building muscle. Muscles generally grow faster and stronger when you keep carbs in your diet.
Carbs are broken down into two categories: simple and complex carbs.
- Simple Carbs
Simple carbs are made of sugar and fruit, fruit juice and fruits. The simplest form of carbs is glucose. Natural simple carbs are not bad and they include fructose which is found in fruits and lactose which is found in milk. However, the simple sugars found in sucrose include table sugar which is the kind of sugar you should really avoid or consume minimally more especially when trying to lose weight. Although natural simple carbs such as fructose and lactose are healthy, they should be consumed in moderation when closely monitoring your weight. The best time to consume fruit should be either pre- or post- workout.
- Complex starch Carbohydrates
These carbs consist of grains, peas, and beans. They have relatively good nutrients to them however complex, starchy carbs are often refined which is not ideal. Refined carbs undergo a process where the machinery has been used to remove the high fiber parts from the grain. Through this process, the complex carbs lose the properties which had made it a healthy option. Eg. White flour, white rice, white bread, most sugary cereals, noodles, pasta etc. it is advisable to limit your complex starchy carbs just as much as you would avoid sugar.
- Complex Fibre Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates carry important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need to complete essential functions. Foods in this category include non-starchy veggies. They contain the least amount of calories and it is basically nearly impossible to overeat green veggies.
Grocery shopping is a huge part of maintaining a healthy diet, so make sure you go with a game plan or strategy for what goes in your cart.
So next time you go to the store, and you are wondering which carbs from each group you can safely include in your diet, here are my suggestions:
Simple Carbs: Opt for fruits and dairy products over sugary fruit juices and other sweet products.
Starchy Complex Carbs: Oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, rye, whole grains, sweet corn, are a great idea to get good fiber.
Complex Fibre Carbs: Broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, spinach cucumber, carrots, cauliflower, and many more. I cannot stress the importance of green veggies!