Let’s start with a little reminder.
What are carbs ?
There are different types of carbohydrates in food which are :
-The simple sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose) found in fruit, vegetables, dairies and refined sugars (white or brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup,... and products made from them)
-The complex carbohydrates (starches) found in grains, legumes and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, cassava)
-The fibers that are basically indigestible carbs naturally found in plant-based food. Unlike the other ones, they cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. Therefore, fiber passes through the intestinal tract where it has many functions.
During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars (80% as glucose) in order to be absorbed through the small intestine. They are then transported to the tissues to release their energy.
Carbohydrates are indeed the body’s main source of energy. From that point of view, it looks like a pretty important nutrient to have in your diet, but be careful, the excess carbs are not used as a supplement of energy. They are stored as glycogen in muscles and liver or as fat. YES, FAT.
Do carbs make you fat ?
Carbs can transform into fat in the body. But this is not a fair reason to cut it out completely. As I always say, it’s all about balance and too much of anything is never a good idea. If you don’t overconsume them and do a physical activity, they will just provide your body enough fuel for optimal function without gaining fat mass.
Eating more calories than you burn in a day can lead to weight gain. Because of a high Glycemic index(read more about it here), refined complex carbs (like white bread) and sugars don’t keep you full for a long time and you will be hungry again (and often crave something sweet) in the next hour or less.
If you are trying to lose weight, you should rather look at the type of carbohydratesyou choose to eat because some sources are healthier than others. For example, you might benefit from cutting refined sugars (honey, sugar, maple syrup and sweet products) and reducing your carbs consumption at dinner when you no longer need a lot of energy.
So, are carbs bad or good for you ?
Not all carbs are made equal.
Refined sugars are basic, broken-down carbohydrates, devoid of any nutrients. And eating too much added sugar is associated with a host of health issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. It's then reasonable to want to limit the amount of added sugar you consume on a regular basis, from a health perspective.
But complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat), fruits, veggies, and dairy (in a reasonable consumption and if you can tolerate it), are all part of a healthy diet.
So, if you are thinking about depriving yourself of carbohydrates, think about it twice because that would also mean cutting out -or at least reducing- your fruits and veggies consumption. This could lead to vitamin and minerals deficiencies (especially vitamin C) or digestive issues from the lack of fibers found in whole grains, legumes, tubers, fruits and veggies.
It’s always better to eat carbohydrates from healthy foods than to follow a strict diet limiting or counting the number of grams of carbohydrates consumed.
For example, 2 chocolate cookies contain 18g of carbs while a banana contains around 20g. But its fiber, apart from reducing cholesterol levels and playing an active role in the gut also slow down the absorption of carbs. This means, it takes longer to digest and the fructose is progressively released in the liver.
Fruits are also packed with vitamins and minerals.