Carbohydrates, or “carbs” for short, are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fat) that are essential for human health and well-being. Despite the bad reputation they sometimes get in the media, carbs are actually a vital part of a healthy diet. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Carbs provide energy: One of the main roles of carbohydrates in the body is to provide energy. When we eat carbs, our bodies break them down into glucose, which is then used by our cells to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of the body. Carbs are especially important for high-intensity exercise and other activities that require a lot of energy.
2. Carbs are the brain’s preferred fuel source: The brain relies almost exclusively on glucose for fuel. When carbs are restricted, the body has to turn to other sources (like fat) to produce glucose, which can lead to brain fog and other cognitive issues. By consuming enough carbs, we can ensure that our brains have the energy they need to function at their best.
3. Carbs are important for gut health: Carbohydrates, particularly the fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are important for gut health. Fiber helps feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut, which in turn produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can improve digestion and reduce inflammation.
4. Carbs can help with weight management: Contrary to popular belief, carbs aren’t necessarily “fattening.” In fact, some studies have found that people who eat diets higher in carbs (particularly complex carbs like those found in whole grains) tend to weigh less than those who eat low-carb diets. This may be because carbs help us feel full and satisfied, which can reduce the likelihood of overeating.
5. Carbs are important for athletic performance: Carbs are the body’s primary fuel source during exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise. By consuming enough carbs before and during exercise, people can improve their performance and delay the onset of fatigue.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide energy, fuel the brain, support gut health, aid in weight management, and enhance athletic performance. Rather than shunning carbs altogether, focus on consuming high-quality, complex carbs from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.