Carbs are the devil we love to hate.
That crusty, warm bread basket at your favorite restaurant, served with a herbed oil. Who can resist?! Rice, potatoes, bread, cakes, muffins, bagels…. So many carbs to lust over.
The No Carb Diet Revolution
Once we learned that carbohydrates cause you to gain weight, especially around the belly, we banned all carbs from our diet. Low carb and no carb diets became all the rage and The Atkins Diet gained a cult following. I also fell into this trend and have tried several no carb or low carb diets. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, they work! You can drop weight quickly with this strategy. The problem is that I could never maintain it. I can’t live without my carbs!
We Were Wrong
So why did we go so extreme? For some reason, we classified ALL carbs as bad. But all carbs are not created equally. It took me a long time to accept this fact. There are two major types, simple and complex. The simple carbs are things like sugar and glucose that can be found in milk, yogurt, fruit, or table sugar. Your body absorbs simple sugars very quickly causing your blood sugar to spike, and then you come crashing down. They tend to be calorie dense but nutrient poor. Complex carbs (think starches and fiber) are found in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Complex carbs absorb slowly and help keep you full longer, plus they are full of nutrients.
The tricky part is when humans step in and refine the complex sugars. Whole wheat becomes white flour or cereal, brown rice become white rice. We take something full of nutrients and strip everything good away until it is a simple carb that our body recognizes as a simple sugar.
Carbs in Our Diet
So the rules of eliminating carbs are like this: Cut out refined sugars like white flour and white rice. Cut out certain simple sugars like white sugar but yogurt and milk in moderation are ok. Complex, unrefined grains are good for you and you are free to enjoy them. Yes, this includes white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Not the fried kind or the kind you add cream and butter to, but simple, unadulterated potatoes.
Here is a little cheat sheet for some common foods
Carbs to Stay Away From: Sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, anything that says starch, like cornstarch, white flour, white rice. Common foods include soda, cookies and desserts, cereal, juice, instant oatmeal, white bead (or any bread that is not whole grain), and pastas not saying whole grain.
Carbs to Enjoy in Moderation: Yogurt, milk, whole wheat bread, potatoes, and brown rice.
Carbs You Should Eat Plenty Of: Beans, lentils, peas, fruits, and vegetables.