Let’s get one thing straight: carbohydrates are not the enemy! With low-carb diets in the spotlight, it can be easy to get sucked into the belief that you should remove carbohydrates from your diet. But there is more to this story!
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the essential macronutrients which provide our body with glucose. For a long time, it was believed that glucose was our body’s only source of energy. When we consume carbohydrates, we use the glucose for energy immediately or stored for use later.
We have learned that our body can also use something called ketones for fuel - and ketones come from our fat stores.
However, depending on your body type and activity levels, completely removing carbohydrates from your diet can lead to disaster. But choosing the right types of carbohydrates is essential to balancing blood sugar and hormones, increasing fitness performance, cognitive function, and weight management.
Types of carbohydrates
While carbohydrates are not the enemy, it is important to remember that not all carbohydrates are the same. White sugar and white bread are carbs, but so are sweet potatoes, apples, and berries!
When carbohydrates are in a more natural form, like whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables, they also contain higher amounts of fiber. This means that we use the glucose at a more steady rate, resulting in a lower sugar spike and crash.
Yet, choosing carbohydrates like refined white sugar, white breads, baked goods, pop, or juice, that don’t contain high amounts of fibre, fat or protein, will usually result in a high glucose spike, and a bigger crash later on.
Why are we addicted to sugar?
Our bodies are constantly seeking homeostasis (balance). Our bodies and brains naturally want glucose for energy and brain function. But this can turn into a vicious cycle and addiction when we choose the wrong types of carbohydrates.
When we first consume carbohydrates, our blood glucose increases. Then, a hormone called insulin comes in to bring our blood glucose levels down. The higher the blood glucose increase, the larger the dip down we will see, which causes us to just crave more sugar.
When we choose more complex carbohydrates like grains, some fruits, and vegetables, we reduce the spike and dip in our blood sugar, thus reducing our addiction. This also helps to keep our energy and stress levels more balanced during the day.
Did you know that your stress response and sugar cravings are actually linked? When our blood sugar drops too low, for too long, our stress hormone (cortisol), kicks in! You know that “hangry” feeling you get when you haven’t eaten in a few hours?
Choosing those carbohydrates that result in a less significant spike in blood sugar is essential to reducing those moments of “hangry” later in the day. And if you have a sugar craving, try these foods.
Read more about how carbohydrates can help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals here.