Carbohydrates: Are They Good or Bad For You?

By SRK Editor

| Last updated February 20, 2019

Look on social media these days and you will likely agree: while over the years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation, in recent times the attack on carbs has gotten even worse as the keto diet has gotten more and more popular.

Keto, alongside other diets such as Atkins and South Beach promote easy, rapid weight loss that can be very attractive to someone trying to lose weight. The idea perpetrated through these diets is that restricting carbohydrates from your diet you will be able to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. The truth, however, is that cutting off carbs completely can deprive your body of a main source of fuel, as well as many essential nutrients that you need to stay healthy.

Simple vs Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates are foods that get converted into glucose, or sugar, in our bodies during digestion. Glucose is a main source of fuel for our body. It is especially important for the brain, which cannot easily use other fuel sources (such as fat or protein) for energy.

There are two important kinds of carbohydrates:

Simple carbs include sugars found in foods such as table sugar, honey, dairy products, fruit and fruit juice.

Complex carbs are starches — long chains of glucose molecules — which include grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta and rice. Some vegetables — corn, peas, white and sweet potatoes, and butternut and winter squash — are high in starch. Complex carbohydrates can be broken down further into refined and whole grain carbohydrates.

Not All Carbohydrates Are Created Equal

Just like we uncovered with red meat, not all carbs are created equal!

All carbohydrates turn into glucose and raise our blood sugar, but some do it slowly and others do it faster, and that’s the important difference.

Fiber is important for your digestive health as well as regulating blood glucose. Foods with fiber, such as broccoli, beans, and apples with the skin, 100% whole-wheat bread take longer to be digested, so glucose is released into the bloodstream slowly.

Refined carbohydrates, such as white rice and white pasta, have had their fiber and nutrients removed. Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, have not. Therefore, the glucose from refined carbohydrates can get into the blood stream faster than the glucose from whole grains.

Fruits also contain fiber. The sugar from a piece of fruit does not affect blood glucose the same way fruit juice would.

The Results Of Cutting Off Whole Grains From Your Diet

Cutting off whole grains form your diet means cutting off key nutrients that your body needs, including essential fatty acids: the B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Whole grains also contain fiber. Fruit and starchy vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds that form a plants immune system. They help prevent disease in humans when eaten. Phytonutrients include carotenoids and flavonoids.

What Happens When Your Body Doesn’t Have Enough Carbohydrates?

If you’re not consuming enough of the right kind of carbohydrates, your body will use fat and protein for energy instead. This is exactly why diets like the Atkins diet or keto claim that low-carb diets are good for weight-loss, omitting the fact that either protein nor fat is an efficient source of energy.

Fat digestion – Fat does not completely digest when it is used as an energy source. By-products called ketones are formed. Ketones are mildly acidic. They can build up in the blood and make it more acidic. Over time this may be harmful to the body.

Protein digestion – Protein’s main job is to be a building block, not an energy source. Using protein for energy can compromise the building of muscles and other cells.

SRK Quinoa Bowl

Carbohydrate Consumption Recommendations

According to Harvard Medical School, below are the carbohydrate advices you should follow for a healthy and balanced diet:

 Skip the fruit juice and go straight to the fruit. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.

 Limit the amount of refined sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, agave, honey and white and brown sugar. These are often found in cakes, cookies and donuts. These lack nutrients and are high in calories.

 Choose whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, whole-wheat pasta and whole-wheat bread. To ensure that you are buying a whole-grain product, check the ingredient list. Look for the words “100% whole grain.” If you see whole or whole grain listed as the first ingredient, then the product probably is mostly whole grain, but also has refined grains. The label won’t tell you how much, so pick products with the words 100% whole grain in the ingredient list. Don’t rely on the front of the package or color of the food!

As Always, Everything In Moderation

Portion size is always key. While important to include carbohydrates in your diet, to avoid weight gain do pay attention to portion size. Try to limit the amount of carbohydrates, such as potatoes, peas, butternut squash, rice or pasta, to a quarter of your plate (about 1 cup). Be mindful of carbohydrate snacks, such as chips, cookies, crackers and donuts.

The Conclusion

Carbohydrates are a major source of fuel and nutrients for our bodies. They should be part of a healthy diet, even when the goal is to lose weight. When adding carbohydrates, pay attention to portion size; choose whole fruits and make it a whole grain!

The Square Roots Kitchen menu focuses on a balanced diet that incorporates the appropriate portions of carbohydrates with every health salad, wrap and bowl. option At SRK we recognized the important of ensuring our body is fueled adequately, which is why every SRK ingredient is sourced locally and carefully selected for its nutrition and taste.

Looking for a healthy and tasty salad, wrap or bowl? Order online or in-store, set your eyes on your dietary goals and needs and then our database does all the work for you. If you need to filter by diets and allergies, or simply want to know how many calories you’re getting, we’ve got you covered. Customizing has never been easier with SRK’s mobile app and in-store touch panels. Whether you want to double your proteins and avocado, need to ensure you have enough carbohydrates in your next meal, or need to filter by diet or allergy, our customize feature puts all of the information at your finger tips so that we can prepare your perfect entrée!

SRK offers healthy catering options in Chicagoland too, regardless of whether you’re looking to feed 10 people or your entire corporate office. Head here for full information on SRK’s catering offerings.