I spend a whole bunch of time every week reading various health blogs, books, and websites in hopes that I’ll come across something useful for you lovely folks. While some (and sometimes even most) of the information out there is quite useful to someone that knows how to do their research and comes into things with an open mind, there’s been a reoccurring conversation that makes my blood boil circulating just about everywhere:
“Carbs are horrible for you.”
This simply isn’t the case! In fact, carbs are a fairly important component of an overall healthy diet (in most cases, anyway). So, today we’re going to be debunking some low-carb myths. Hopefully by the time you’re finished reading this article you’ll have a better understanding of why exactly they’re not so bad (and you’ll actually have some facts to back you up the next time someone brings the subject up. If it hasn’t happened yet, chances are that it will sooner than later).
Myth #1: Carbs Will Make You Gain Weight
Truth: Only If You Overeat Them
And it also really depends on where they come from. There are really two types of carbs: Simple carbs (think of refined things that you’re most likely to binge on – Chips, cookies, white bread, etc. But more on the good ones in just a minute), and slow-releasing complex carbs (think potatoes, whole grain breads, quinoa, squash, pumpkin, etc.).
Refined carbs are likely to spike your blood sugars and leave you wanting more, whereas complex carbs slowly release into your blood stream and are more likely to leave you feeling full much longer. And not all simple carbs are bad for you, either – Things like dairy products and certain fruits are great examples of simple carbs that – when eaten in moderation – can actually help satiate you without going straight to your thighs (or butt, or wherever you gain/carry the worst of your weight).
Myth #2: All Carbs Are Bad For Your Health
It’s true that low-carb diets are generally considered healthy. Much healthier than low fat eating plans (In case you’ve missed it, saturated fats are actually really good for you and a necessary component in good overall health). But here’s the thing – Not everyone’s the same. We’re all individuals and what works for one person likely won’t work for another (otherwise there would be one and only magical diet and we’d all be the weight we’d like to be).
Truth: Some Of Them Are Good (And Sometimes Even Necessary)
Some people just don’t like the way they feel when they’re on a low carb diet, others just like carbs entirely too much and feel as though they’re depriving themselves when they’re eating this way (I would definitely fall into this category) and so they can’t stick with it.
Other times, going carb free can actually hurt your health. For example, if you’re someone that works out strenuously five days a week (or if you happen to have a job that requires you to be super physically active), you need carbs. Cutting them out completely could very well result in a hospital stay.
Myth #3: Pasta And Bread Are Horrible For You
Truth: It’s All About Portion Control
Thing is, pasta’s and bread can be wonderful bases for an exceptionally healthy meal if you know what you’re doing (lettuce wraps aren’t always what we’re looking for, are they?). As long as you’re bearing portion control in mind (TIP: A portion of pasta is roughly one cup or about the size of your palm), pasta can be a perfectly healthy choice!
Top it with lots of veggies, olive oil (one of those healthy fats we discussed earlier), and your favourite lean protein and you’ve got yourself a meal that will keep you feeling full for at least a few hours. Same goes for bread (if you opt for whole grain). Other healthy carb choices include wild rice, farro, quinoa, potatoes, etc.
Myth #4: Since Carrots, Potatoes, And Fruits Have Carbs In Them They’re No Good For You
Healthy is 100% a relative term (more on that in just a second), but you’ll definitely hear someone on a low carb diet tell you that certain fruits and vegetables aren’t any good for you because they contain carbohydrates.
Truth: It Depends On The Circumstances
Back to that relative term thing – If you’re someone that consumes a typical Western-style diet full of processed, convenient foods loaded with trans fats, eating carrots and fruit is definitely healthy in comparison. On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re someone that has diabetes and you’re trying out a ketogenic diet in hopes of getting it under control, that same amount of carrots and fruits could be completely detrimental to your efforts. For the average person that falls somewhere in the middle, potatoes and fruits are a perfectly acceptable diet choice.
Myth #5: A Low Carb Diet And A Ketogenic Diet Are The Same Things
Truth: They’re Somewhat Similar, But Still Two Very Different Things
A ketogenic diet is a diet that’s very low carb (extremely, even – Click here for a breakdown of what exactly they are and to see some examples), whereas low carb diets give you a little more wiggle room (a couple hundred grams) when it comes to consumption. If you’re trying to lose weight, just make sure that the carbs you are consuming are full of nutritional goodness and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Myth #6: All Carbohydrates Are Sugar, And Sugar Is Bad
While this statement is technically true to some extent, it’s very misleading – Not all sugars are bad for you,
Truth: Only Certain Sugars Aren’t Great
The term ‘sugar’ can actually be broken down into three separate terms – Glucose, fructose, and galactose. To say that all sugars are bad would imply that a potato is as unhealthy as table sugar when that’s simply not the case. Yes, starches break down and raise the sugars in the blood (something to take into consideration if you’re trying to get diabetes under control), but they raise glucose levels. Glucose isn’t what you need to worry about, fructose is.
Myth #7: You Can’t Gain Weight When You’re Eating Low Carb
For some reason, some people seem to think that if you stop eating bread and pasta, you can eat whatever else you’d like in any amount and you’ll simply keep shedding pounds.
Truth: Plenty Of Low Carb Foods Can Be Fattening
Especially if you’re someone that’s prone to binge eating like it’s your job (hey, we’ve all been there). It comes down to calories, people! Frankly, your body has no idea whether you’re eating a bag of chips or a bag of peanuts. It just absorbs the calories (and hopefully nutrients) that you’re giving to it happily. This is another one of those situations where portion control is key (are you noticing a trend yet?).
Basically, what I’m hoping you’ll take from all of these debunked low-carb myths is that every single body is different and you need to learn to listen to yours. Low carb diets definitely do work well for some people, but from what I can tell that number is much lower than the number of folks that they don’t work for. Sure, if you’re trying to combat diabetes, obesity, or another metabolic condition you might need to be a little more careful of what you’re putting into your body than the average person, but ultimately it’s not the biggest deal in the world if you eat a potato or carrot.
The Usual Statement
Before you start a low carb diet (or make any other huge lifestyle change for that matter) please remember to first consult with your medical practitioner or holistic professional just to make sure that you’ll be able to do so without inadvertently making yourself sick (because it does happen and there’s nothing worse than setting yourself back when you’re trying to move forward).
In any case, carbs aren’t as bad as you might think and are actually a pretty crucial component of a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle for most people. Have you tried a low carb eating plan? What was your personal experience with it (aka did it work for you or did you find that you do better with bread and pasta than you do without)? Let me know in the comments section below!
If you’d like to be the first to know whenever we post something new, please feel free to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+ so that you can stay on top of all of our fitness, diet, natural beauty, organic eating, and other healthy living news.