What do you think of when you hear the word “carbohydrates”? Some people think carbs are synonymous with bad foods. When I educate patients at work and ask them if they know what foods have carbs, they sigh and roll their eyes and say, “All the good stuff.” Low carb fad diets, such as Atkins and the Paleo diet, have played a part in the confusion surrounding carbohydrates.
First of all, CARBS ARE NOT BAD. Our food is categorized into three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Approximately, 50% of the calories we consume should come from carbs. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy and our brains function entirely on carbs. How many of you have attempted a low carb diet and just felt exhausted and completely like crap?? This happens because you are depriving your body of its main fuel.
So, what foods have carbs? I generally break them up in to 5 categories:
1. Starches: Breads, pasta, rice, and cereal
2. Fruit and fruit juices
3. Dairy: Milk, yogurt and cheese
4. Starchy Vegetables: Beans, peas, potatoes and corn
5. Added sugar: Regular sodas, desserts, candy, etc
Another misconception regarding carbs is that anything white is bad for you. This is just silly. Potatoes are a very nutritious food. Cauliflower is great. Wheat bread still has carbs even though it’s brown. Color has nothing to do with carbohydrate content.
The problem regarding carbohydrate intake is portion size, just like everything else in the American diet. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. Six cups of macaroni and cheese isn’t good for anyone. It’s all about balance and moderation.