Why carbs aren’t the enemy and what you should focus on instead

healthy carbs

I’ve seen many eating fads come and go over the last 40 years.  I remember when butter was ostracized and everybody was encouraged to eat margarine instead.  Did heath improve?  No, it continued to get worse.

Then, some genius decided raw vegetables were bad for us and we should cook everything before eating it.  That way, we wouldn’t die from germs due to vegetables coming out of or in contact with dirt.  Really?

SALT FREE!Anyone remember when salt came under attack?  As more and more people started looking for low-sodium foods, the food industry willingly accommodated us.  Suddenly, packages on every shelf could be found with flashy labels reading “Low Salt!” or “Salt Free!”

Even foods that were naturally sodium-free could be found with no-salt packaging charging twenty cents more than the package that didn’t say no-salt.  Can anybody explain to me why it costs more to leave an ingredient out?

Then along came the low-fat craze.  This fad might have died a quick death as most early low-fat foods tasted horrible.  But food manufacturers figured out how to make their low-fat products fly off shelves.  Load them up with sugar instead!

Carbohydrates became the next evil food.  The food industry had no problems cashing in on this one either.  Here ya go, all the packaging you could want touting low-carb and carb-free.  As usual, it costs a bit more than its “normal” version.  And to make sure it still taste great?  We’ll load it up with fat!

If you happened to be someone attempting to follow low-fat AND low-carb, you were out of luck.  You could have one or the other, but not both in processed-food land.

Why carbohydrates aren’t evil

Sometimes, I feel the tide is finally turning on this latest and longest running fad.  But then I’ll see someone on facebook asking for nutrition advice for losing weight, and friends will chime away about the need to reduce carbs.

They recommend this despite all the aerobic-intense exercise she lists she’s doing in her efforts to lose weight.  Then I’m not so sure people have gotten the message they shouldn’t fear carbs – at least not all carbs.  Especially when they have created a high demand for the energy carbohydrates provide!

The body’s need for carbohydrates

bikingWhen it comes to energy resources, the body turns to carbohydrate stores for any activities lasting longer than 30 seconds.

There is a direct correlation of needing more carbohydrates the higher the intensity and longer the duration of your activity.

If not enough carbs are available, your body will burn fat next.  Some think that’s a good thing, but it’s harder for your body to make this conversion and it takes much longer.

That means if you’re an athlete or fitness enthusiast, if you lower carbs too far or eliminate them, your performance in your sport or activity will suffer.  Not only that, if you work out for too long, your body will turn to protein sources to use as fuel next.

If you’re trying to build muscle from your exercise, using it up as an energy source is counterproductive.

Not convinced?

Providing energy for muscle work is only one thing carbs are needed for.  Your brain needs glucose to function, too.  Spend too much time on a low-carbohydrate diet and you’ll notice a shortened attention span and inability to focus on mental tasks.

Although new studies are showing some people function better with a carbohydrate intake as low as 33% of their overall calories, most active adults need anywhere from 45% to 65%.

Athletes should consider eating 5 to 7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

How to choose the right carbohydrates

fiber contentWhen it comes to choosing the right food sources, there’s only one thing to focus on.  And it’s not how many grams of carbohydrates are in a serving.

You want to focus on fiber.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers are hip to people trying to increase their fiber intake.   That means they artificially are increasing fiber grams per serving on many products that would otherwise be low or totally devoid of fiber.

This is not a good thing.  It’s possible processed foods that have insoluble and soluble fiber added may cause these foods to be less nutritious than their non-enriched equivalents.

So once again, the lesson to be learned here is; minimize processed foods!

I don’t think I can beat this drum loud enough or long enough.

potatoes are healty carbsWhen you buy processed food, you’re buying into the food manufacturer’s marketing ploys and lies about how healthy their product is for you.  You know, that very same product that keeps you fat, keeps you unhealthy, and keeps you wondering why you can’t lose weight.

The best place to get your carbohydrates AND your fiber is from whole food sources.  And don’t be afraid of potatoes.  They are energy dense and a good source of fiber if you eat the peel, too.

According to the Institute of Medicine, women need at least 25 grams of fiber per day (men need at least 38).

A short list of fiber dense carbohydrates

  • artichokes
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • berries
  • broccoli
  • baby lima beans
  • edamame
  • green peas, black-eyed peas
  • garbanzo beans, black beans, great northern beans (etc)
  • split peas (yellow or green)
  • lentils
  • eggplant
  • endive
  • fennel
  • green beans
  • kohlrabi
  • okra
  • red, white or sweet potatoes (with skin)
  • sugar snap and snow peas
  • rutabaga
  • sun-dried tomatoes

Ready to figure out the right number of calories, carbs, proteins and fats you need to fuel your exercise and reach your ideal weight?  Check out my Jump Start program.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and
    I am waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

  2. Tammy R says:

    I love this, Lori! We eat lots of beans – kidney, black, garbanzo. We eat bananas, blueberries, and bananas. We lost over 50 pounds combined! Our doctor is so happy with our blood test results for our physical, and we feel great. I hate to see anyone eliminating food groups based on fads. We did it several years back when we tried the Atkins Diet, and our doctor called with bad news about CJ’s cholesterol. Fiber is our friend now! Long live carbs!

    • Lori says:

      Ugh to the Atkins Diet. This is certainly not the first time I heard somebody’s cholesterol went through the roof on that diet. Yeah, food group elimination is a lose weight quick trick that doesn’t teach people how to make healthy choices or how to create sustainable change. Unfortunately, those types of diets lure people in again and again, because there’s nothing sexy about saying, “I’ll show you how to lose 12 to 24 pounds in six months!” People take years to put the weight on, but want it off within weeks. Fiber is my friend, too!

  3. cj says:

    See? Beans, rice, veggies and fruit. Those are out staples and they work. Just got my blood tested and the numbers are stellar. The doctor actually called me “the picture of health.” Thank you for debunking the carb is evil myth, LS. As you say, glad that silly fad is petering out a bit. Geeshhhhh!

    • Lori says:

      Woohoo! I hope you have a reward planned for yourself, CJ. That’s an excellent accomplishment. The next time I look up health in the dictionary, it’ll be awesome to see your picture there as an example. 😉 lol

      • cj says:

        There are thousands doing it better than me I am sure. But thank you for the kind words. It is far more likely that you’ll find my photo under goof or perhaps jackass;)

        • Lori says:

          Pah. No need to compare to others. Comparing you today to you of ago is what matters here. And you’re doing great! And thank you – now I have three places I can find your photo – I bet I can find it under hoombah, too. 😀

          • cj says:

            Well said, LS!!! You are too kind and yes under Hoombah too. Tammy is to thank for the that;) Have a fun day!!


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