Are Carbs Really That Bad for You?

dr. praegers four potatotes

At Dr. Praeger’s, we prioritize nutrition because we believe that you should always put your health first in order to feel your best. A healthy diet optimizes energy levels, helps you stay focused, and most importantly, it decreases your chances of getting sick or getting diagnosed with a chronic illness. Today we’re looking at the most misunderstood macronutrient of them all — carbohydrates!

When Did Carbs Become The Enemy?

The low-fat craze of the 80s resulted in increasing rates of obesity in America. Nutritional scientists and the general population were left wondering what might have been the cause of what is now considered the beginning of the obesity epidemic. Despite the fact that low-fat diets did not stall the climbing obesity rates, the low-fat ideology took over and stayed well into the 1990s. However, attention began to turn to carbohydrates in the late 1990s. People began blaming carbohydrates and bread for the skyrocketing obesity rates in the country, and to this day many people continue to believe that consuming carbohydrates will lead to a significant amount of weight gain.

In place of the low-fat craze, popular diets such as the Atkins diet began to promote the health benefits of high fat, low carb diet because it was effective at reducing body fat and controlling blood sugar levels in the body. However, medical and nutritional research has shown that low carb, restrictive diets are not the best way to go. It’s also important to remember that despite the popularity of low carb diets such as the ketogenic diet, they are not medically recommended by most registered dietitians and doctors. A balanced approach inclusive of complex carbohydrates is the key to a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.

Why Should You Eat Carbs?

In our article about macronutrients, we referred to carbohydrates being a critical macronutrient. However, in the metabolic sense, it is actually the opposite — carbs are the only non-essential macronutrient. As evidenced by the many people who adopt a ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are not necessary for daily functioning, but glucose is. Fats and proteins are non-negotiable and can create glucose through a metabolic pathway called gluconeogenesis.

So, if carbs are non-essential, why eat them?

Simple, your body and brain thrive on carbs! As an energy source, carbs are perhaps the body’s favorite and most potent source of energy. This study breaks it down wonderfully, your brain is only about 2% of your body’s weight but it consumes approximately 20% of the glucose you consume!

Those who decide to try a ketogenic diet are often warned of the weeks of brain fog that they may experience before their body adjusts. This brain fog is prevalent any time you undergo a low carb diet as your brain struggles to obtain enough glucose to function optimally. A low carb diet is also very hard to sustain and when it comes to holidays, birthdays, and weekends when people tend to break their diets. This means your body will be going in and out of ketosis which can be harmful in the long run.

However, it’s not just the brain that loves carbohydrates, your muscles do as well. Muscles offer up a significant amount of glycogen storage, especially for those who do strength training. Carbs play an important role in metabolism, energy production, exercise, and brain function.

What Makes a “Good” Carb?

The simple answer is fiber.

Fiber is what often separates highly processed/refined carbs. In fact, you could argue that the majority of what we call refined carbohydrates are just a carb source that has been stripped of its fiber which results in a higher glycemic index. These refined carbs are an exceptionally potent source of energy, but eating them frequently will cause your blood sugar to spike often which can contribute to insulin sensitivity.

At Dr. Praeger’s all of our carb-centric foods such as our Four Potato Puffs contain ample amounts of fiber relative to their grams of carbohydrates per serving. The Four Potato Puffs are an excellent example of why even a food that has primarily starchy ingredients (potatoes), can be healthy when you look at the nutrition facts.

Per 21g of carbs, our Four Potato Puffs have 6g of fiber which means that they will provide your body with a steady amount of energy over several hours. Unlike highly refined carbs, “complex” carbohydrate sources take longer for your body to process, and so they have a much steadier effect on blood sugar. Assuring that your diet contains a good source of fiber can help prevent chronic diseases or help control them. Fiber will also help sustain your energy levels throughout the day, avoiding the common midday slump most people experience.

Overall, carbs provide many benefits, including:

Fueling our energy-demanding brains

Quality carb sources are rich in fiber, improving blood glucose levels and insulin responses

Moderate carb intake has positive effects on mood/wellness for many individuals

Better recovery from exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise

Dr. Praeger’s is dedicated to providing wholesome and nourishing meals for children and adults alike. Our products embrace the philosophy of a whole, balanced diet that includes a variety of different vegetables to create foods that meet nutritional standards and our own values.