Nutrition myths and fad diets really irritate me. All of them. But I must admit there’s one that’s lately driving me mad with a special intensity: the demonization of carbohydrates.
Look, I get it: the massive consumption of ultra-processed fast food is making people fat and unhealthy. And those are mainly carbohydrate-rich foods. Or rather, high-sugar foods (not all carbs are equal). Oh, and they also happen to be usually high in added fats, including trans fats.
Hopefully, by now you’re already seeing that “carbohydrates” as a macronutrient aren’t the real problem. Words like massive, ultra-processed, sugar and trans fats should point you in the right direction to understand the issue.
But if you’re still suspicious of carbs… keep reading.
I know what you might say: “but we don’t need carbs”. It’s true. We don’t need carbs. BUT. We should eat them. Or, to say it in an elegant and easy to remember way: we don’t need them to survive, but we need them to live.
Let me explain this further. While we have no physiological requirements for dietary carbohydrates, they have so many benefits that make a positive impact on our health that it would be silly not to eat them (especially taking into account how great they taste!). Anywhere from 1 up to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight will do you good.
To start with, your brain and central nervous system use glucose as their primary fuel, and require a continued supply of it. Carbs are our body’s preferred source for glucose. We can obtain glucose through another process called gluconeogenesis, by which other nutritional compounds are turned into glucose, but it’s not as effective as just eating the *darn* carbs. So it’s a good adaptive mechanism for periods where there aren’t carbs available, but it’s not meant to be used just to satisfy your whim of being a cool low carb idol.
Don’t worry, I won’t take the route of bashing this position (well, I might throw some remarks… #sorrynotsorry). Instead, I will now highlight the amazing benefits of including a good amount of carbs in your diet!
Note: this only applies to a diet whose main sources of carbohydrates are whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Refined grains are fine but shouldn’t be a staple. And the ultra-processed foods I described earlier should be exceptional.