Ah, the dreaded carb debate. On one hand, carbohydrates are crucial for energy. On the other, they can cause insulin spikes, weight gain, even addiction.
But according to Amy Shapiro, R.D., founder of Real Nutrition, we need carbs not just for energy, but for brain function.
“When we are carb-deprived, our body starts to burn fat to use for energy – the whole basis for the anti-carb Atkins diet – but our brain doesn’t run on fat. It requires some type of glucose or sugar to function,” she says. Cut out carbs completely and you’ll feel sluggish and grumpy – and so will your brain.
When this happens, your body has higher insulin levels causing you to store fat more easily. But good carbs do exist: They are complex carbs, and fiber is key: “Your body takes longer to digest them, so then the sugar is more evenly distributed in your bloodstream.” It’s this steady sugar drip (compared to a skyrocketing surge) that can make – or break – what you see on the scale.
Quick & Dirty Carb Rules:
- Eat them early: The earlier in the day you eat carbs the more likely it will be used for what it was intended: energy. Eat them before you go to bed, and they risk being stored as fat.
- For packaged foods, read the label:
- Whole wheat bread should have at least three grams of fiber per slice
- 100% whole wheat or whole grain should be the first ingredient
- Cereal should have about five grams of fiber per serving and less than eight grams of sugar
- Ditch empty snacks like pretzels, cookies, and cakes, with zero fiber
- Boost intake of leafy vegetables and fibrous fruits with naturally balanced levels of nutrients, fiber, and carbs.