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Are Carbs Unhealthy for You?

Published On Nov 15, 2020 5:30 AM By Sakshi Aggarwal

As per the dietary guidelines, we get about half of our calories from carbohydrates. While some claim that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, others say they are useful to keep the body energetic. Also when you are focused on losing weight, there is a lot of advice that you get from friends and relatives about carbs.

To know what is good and what is bad for your health, here we present some common carbohydrate myths as well as the answer to them. But first, let us understand what carbs are.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are naturally occurring starches, sugars, glucose, and fiber in food. They are made up of sugar molecules that are linked together to form starches and fiber. Glucose is the main source of fuel for our body that is especially important for the brain, as the brain cannot easily use other fuel sources for energy like protein or fat. The two types of carbohydrates are explained below:

  • Simple Carbohydrates: These include sugars found in foods such as honey, dairy products, table sugar, fruits, and fruit juice.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Complex carbs can be broken further into the whole grain and refined carbs, which vary in the way they affect the human body. Complex carbs include starches, i.e. long chains of glucose molecules. For instance, crackers, pasta, bread, rice, etc. Some vegetables are rich in starch too such as peas, corn, white and sweet potatoes, and butternut.

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What are Good Carbohydrates and Bad Carbohydrates?

Generally, good carbohydrates are foods that contain high fiber amounts. It takes longer for the human body to break these carbohydrates and use energy. Found in cereals, products made from whole wheat flour, vegetables, fruits, etc., these carbs should be added to the diet.

Bad carbohydrates generally include the foods that contain refined carbohydrates with a low fiber amount like sugar and white flour. Bad carbs can be found in cookies, cakes, some cereals, white bread, and other bakery items that are made with white flour.

Good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates used to divide carbohydrates when thinking of nutrition, but these are not the scientific terms.

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Common Myths Related To Carbohydrates

Read below about common myths related to carbohydrates and the truth behind them:

Myth 1: Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight

People believe that carbohydrates make them gain weight and therefore go on a low carb diet when intended to lose weight. But unprocessed carbohydrates are not more calorie-dense than protein, because both macronutrients have four calories per one gram. Generally, it is the way these carbohydrates are cooked that makes the difference. For instance, a medium-sized potato has 163 calories, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, around 1 gram of fat, which shows that it is not a high-fat food in its natural form. But if you fry the potato in oil to cook chips, then it increases the fat up to 10 grams per serving. But if it is baked, then it roughly has the same nutrients as in natural form. So, the truth is that carbohydrates are not fattening in their natural form, but it is the way of cooking that adds the nutrients.

Myth 2: Our Body Does Not Need Carbohydrates

From the liver to the kidney, each organ of the human body uses glucose. Therefore, glucose is important for the body to function properly. And the easiest way to provide glucose to our bodies is through intake of carbohydrates. With the intake of carbohydrates, blood sugar increases and the pancreas releases insulin. Our body then uses glucose for energy or stores excess glucose as glycogen, which can be used when we are fasting or exercising. So, the truth is that carbohydrates play a vital role in fueling your brain, boosting energy, and maintaining metabolism.

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Bottom Line

It is recommended not to completely write off carbohydrates from your diet. This is because carbohydrates play an important role in a healthy balanced diet. It is also advised to take appropriate portions of carbohydrates that are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and/or fiber, and avoid those lacking nutrients.

Disclaimer: This article is issued in general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.​

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