We are living in a world of quick fix diets that often times eliminate an entire food group from our diet, and the first to go is typically carbohydrates. We live in a digital world full of conflicting information – especially information about nutrition, and it is hard to differentiate facts from food myths, so let’s crack this myth.
Carbohydrates can be found in a variety of foods, the most well-known is grain foods, such as pasta, rice, and bread or sweets such as cookies and cake. Carbohydrates are also found in fruit and dairy products as naturally occurring sugars. Lastly, carbohydrates are found in starchy vegetables such as potatoes, yams, and squash. You may be asking yourself if there is difference between all these carbohydrates and the answer is yes!
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When you eat a carbohydrate rich food it is metabolized down to its simplest form – glucose. Glucose is then stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver cells, and is pulled out as needed to make energy – this is dependent on activity level and energy consumption. For example, if you were to exercise, muscle glycogen would be utilized to make ATP, or energy to keep your body moving, cool right? Not to mention our brain survives exclusively off of glucose, which is why you may feel foggy when you are hungry or avoiding carbohydrates. Although all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the other nutrients they contain make a difference in how they make your body feel. Refined, or what I like to call “fun” carbohydrates include items like white bread, white rice, or cookies and cake! These items can be part of a balanced diet when you enjoy them mindfully and choose to consume them with other nutrient dense items such as vegetables and a lean protein source. These carbohydrates are stripped of fiber and other vitamins and minerals during processing, and often have sugar added to them. This means that the sugar (glucose) from these sources often gets into our bloodstream very quickly resulting in a quick burst of energy, that may not last very long.
Fueling grains are whole grain or whole wheat carbohydrate sources, such as whole wheat bread or brown rice. Whole grain sources of carbohydrates means that the grain was not stripped during processing – leaving all parts of the grain means that the product is higher in B vitamins – essential for metabolism, and fiber – essential for healthy digestion. Added fiber also helps to slow the emptying of carbohydrates from the stomach, this slows down the rate of sugar (glucose) entering your blood, which helps keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Fiber is also a prebiotic meaning that it feeds the probiotic or good gut bacteria in your stomach!
Dietitian’s Pick Fueling Carbohydrates:
- Whole grain bread, pasta, and rice
- Steel cut oats
- Whole grain popcorn
- Sweet potatoes/russet potatoes
- Butternut/spaghetti/zucchini squash
- Whole grain popcorn
In conclusion, it is one hundred percent not necessary to eliminate carbohydrates from our diet. Carbohydrates are a great fueling source that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals necessary for daily function. So, go forth and enjoy your fueling and fun carbohydrates!
Taylor LaRosee, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist who graduated from Iowa State University. She is currently studying for her masters degree and working full time as an RDN. Taylor’s nutrition philosophy is centered around intuitive eating – but she also loves working with athletes on sports nutrition. In her free time, Taylor loves to cook, hike outdoors, cozy up with a good book and coffee, or spend time with her family, friends, and boyfriend.