Health and Fitness – Carbohydrates: Friend or Foe

Melanie Rovinsky

When it comes to eating carbs, it is often easy to get confused about the possible health benefits and detriments that exist within the heaping bowl of spaghetti we all know and love.

With the advent of the Atkins diet in 1972 (and many similar Hollywood meal plans since), the appeal of eliminating carbs has only grown in recent years. However, as more and more people jump onto the “healthy eating” bandwagon, nutritionists are seizing the opportunity to educate carb-avoiders everywhere.

If you have read any fitness article or seen any cereal commercial in the past few years, you are well aware of the health benefits of whole grain. Carbohydrates exist in two forms: simple and complex. Simple carbs, (generally coming from sugar) like the ones found in soda or white bread, break down quickly in your body, giving you a short burst of energy but little sustaining power. Complex carbs, like the ones found in fruit and whole wheat bread, are metabolized slowly, providing your body with a steady and lasting source of fuel. In addition, these carbohydrates are often laden with fiber, which helps you feel full longer.

Of course, switching to whole grain will not solve all of your problems, nor should you eliminate simple carbohydrates entirely. In fact, many fitness experts recommend consuming simple carbohydrates over complex ones before exercising. During extreme exertion, your body needs instant energy and thus benefits from eating foods that metabolize quickly.

So why the bad rap? If carbohydrates are part of a healthy and balanced diet, why do so many people experience such weight-loss success when they eliminate them completely? The truth is, carbohydrates often make up the majority of a typical American diet: bagels, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, cake and cookies. By getting rid of carbs, individuals are forced to drastically change what they eat. And because there are less food options available to these individuals, they inevitably cut their calorie intake and lose weight. Don’t count on a carb-free diet to keep your belly at bay forever: after time, most individuals turn to other high calorie foods to fill the gaps in their diets.

There are, however, some individuals who do benefit from kicking carbs to the curb. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that is set-off by the consumption of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and many sufferers of Celiac disease must commit to a gluten-free lifestyle.

A diet rich in whole grain is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as well as a necessity in providing you with the energy you need to tackle your busy lifestyle!

Carb Myth: “Potatoes are a diet no-no.” In fact, a medium potato contains only 110 calories and is rich in vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. However, avoid deep frying or smothering in butter and sour cream.