If you’ve ever considered starting on a diet of any sort, chances are that you’re probably familiar with carbs, or carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are traditionally painted as the bane of diets and healthy living, and many are quick to point to them as significant contributors to weight gain.
However, that’s not the entire picture – and you’d be wrong if you thought completely cutting out carbohydrates from your diet is a good idea. Carbohydrates are an essential part of every diet, and it’s nearly impossible to have a well-balanced diet without consuming any carbohydrates at all.
In this article, we delve deeper into the world of carbohydrates and take a look at what exactly they are, whether they’re truly bad for you and what you can consider eating as an alternative to them.
What Exactly are Carbs?
Carbohydrates, often referred to as carbs for short, are an essential macronutrient that the human body uses as a primary source of energy. Carbohydrates can exist in many forms, and they can be found in almost every single food item that you consume. The key difference between different foods is in the quantity of carbohydrates that each one contains.
For example, starchy and sugary foods tend to have a larger composition of carbohydrates compared to more fibrous foods, like vegetables.
When you consume carbohydrates, your body digests it and breaks it down into glucose, a compound that your body then uses as a source of fuel. This glucose is used by the human body to perform almost every physical function imaginable, ranging from physical movements to brain activity.
Are Carbohydrates Good for You?
The debate about whether carbohydrates are good or bad for your health is a contentious one, with many staunch supporters of both points of view. While consuming excessive quantities of carbohydrates may lead to undesirable results such as weight gain, cutting it out completely from your diet may also cause ill effects.
Thus, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of carbohydrates in perspective and recognize that as with most foods, consuming carbohydrates in moderation is likely to be the best option for your health and well-being.
Pros of Carbohydrates
- Source of energy: Carbohydrates are one of the most efficient sources of energy for the human body. Without carbohydrates, you may find that you have low blood sugar levels, which may lead to more frequent tiredness or lethargy, both physically and mentally.
- Disease prevention: Certain carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains are typically high in dietary fibers, and consuming them can help you regulate your digestive health. Consuming such foods can also help you reduce your risk of nutrition-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.1
Cons of Carbohydrates
- Can lead to weight gain: Excess consumption of carbohydrates can lead to weight gain, especially if you frequently consume more carbohydrates than your body uses for energy. This is because the excess glucose from the carbohydrates you consume eventually become stored as fats in your body if you don’t use them.
- Nutrient-poor: While some carbohydrate-rich foods may be good for your health, there are also others such as sugary drinks and processed snacks that are lacking in nutrients. Consuming these may not be good for your overall health.
What are Good Carbohydrates?
"Good" carbohydrates generally refer to complex carbohydrates that are low in processed or simple sugars. When consumed, these complex carbohydrates can provide the body with long-lasting energy as they take more time to be broken down into glucose.
They are typically also rich in nutrients, making them ideal for achieving a well-balanced diet. Some good carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains such as rice, quinoa and oatmeal
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes such as lentils and black beans
- Low-fat dairy and dairy products such as cheeses
Healthy Alternatives to Carbohydrates for a Keto Diet
If you’re looking to start on a low-carb or a keto diet, you’ll probably be looking to reduce your carbohydrate intake so that your body starts to burn fat for energy.
In such cases, it’s important to reduce your carbohydrate consumption in a healthy, sustainable manner to limit the negative impacts of a keto diet.
Some of the healthiest alternatives to carbohydrate-rich foods if you’re on a keto diet are vegetable-based carbohydrate replacements. These tend to contain very low quantities of carbohydrates and can enable you to continue enjoying your favorite foods while staying true to your keto diet.
For instance, one of the most popular alternatives to a dough-based pizza crust is a cauliflower pizza crust. With cauliflower pizza crusts (like the leading low-carb crusts from KBosh!), you can continue to enjoy your favorite pizzas even on a diet.