Food | Health | Lifestyle | Nutrition | Sweet Treats

Are carbs healthy?

Jacqueline Alwill

Brown Paper Nutrition

If you feel like the demonising of carbs messaging is STRONG right now and there’s a lot of noise about how carbs do nothing but spike glucose, please take a step away from it all.  Take a breath and remember that carbohydrates are a critical macronutrient that support different body functions, and can 100% be part of a balanced diet.

Carbohydrates are essential macronutrients (Reminder: macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats) that play a number of crucial roles in the human body including…

  1. Energy Source: Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is then used by the cells to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy currency of cells. Glucose not immediately used for energy is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later use.
  2. Brain Function: Glucose derived from carbohydrates is the main source of energy for the brain. The brain relies heavily on a constant supply of glucose to function optimally. Inadequate carbohydrate intake can lead to difficulties in concentration, cognitive impairment, and mood swings.
  3. Preventing Protein Catabolism: Adequate carbohydrate intake spares proteins from being used as an energy source. When carbohydrates are insufficient, the body may break down muscle tissue to obtain amino acids for energy production, leading to muscle loss over time.
  4. Digestive Health: Many carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Fiber aids in digestion by adding bulk to stools, promoting regular bowel movements, and preventing constipation. It also helps maintain a healthy gut microbiota, which is crucial for overall digestive health and immune function.
  5. Regulating Blood Sugar Levels: Consuming carbohydrates in the form of complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, legumes, vegetables) can help regulate blood sugar levels by providing a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, promoting sustained energy levels and reducing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  6. Fuel for Exercise: Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for high-intensity and endurance exercise. Adequate carbohydrate intake before, during, and after exercise can enhance performance, delay fatigue, and facilitate post-exercise recovery by replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles.
  7. Nutrient Absorption: Carbohydrates facilitate the absorption of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamins, in the digestive tract. For instance, vitamin C is more efficiently absorbed in the presence of carbohydrates.
  8. Flavour and Palatability: Carbohydrates contribute to the taste, texture, and palatability of foods, making them more enjoyable to eat. This can help ensure adequate nutrient intake and maintain overall dietary satisfaction.

Overall, carbohydrates are essential for optimal health, providing energy, supporting brain function, aiding digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, facilitating exercise performance, and promoting overall well-being. However, it’s important to consume carbohydrates from a variety of sources, focusing on whole, minimally processed foods to maximize their nutritional benefits.

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