Busting the Keto Myth: Why Your Body Needs Carbs

November 30, 2018

We’re willing to bet that you, a friend, or someone you know has recently tried the keto diet. It seems to be sweeping the nation with its claims to decrease body fat within a short period of time. While this sounds pretty ideal for those looking to quickly drop a few pounds, it’s not the best option for everyone. First, let’s talk about the keto diet and who it’s really gonna work for.

The keto diet is essentially the ultimate low-carb diet. But is it too low carb? How hangry will you be is what you’re probably wondering right? While on the keto diet, the majority of your calories consumed come mostly from fat, less from proteins, and very, very little from carbohydrates. To get specific, a standard keto diet looks like this: 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs.

The goal of the keto diet is to enter what’s known as ketosis. Sounds scary, right? We’ll let you be the judge of that. Anyway, ketosis is the state when your body has shifted from burning sugar and carbs to burning fat for fuel. But getting to this point is where many people often give up. But really, who wants to crash and burn? Heard of the “keto flu?” During this body shift, some people may experience flu-like symptoms for several days and up to a couple of weeks! Thanks, but no thanks.

Avid keto dieters will claim that you’ll feel better after you get over the keto flu hump, but it’s important to know, first, whether this diet is even right for you. But do you know why you start to feel so sickly during this transition? Because the body needs carbs! We’ve been preaching that for quite some time now…

Why does your body rely on carbs? Plenty of reasons. Let’s chat.

Carbohydrates provide energy. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Once they enter the body, they are broken down into glucose (sugar) and then absorbed into the bloodstream with the help of insulin. Whether it’s running or marathon or simply just breathing, the body requires that glucose for energy. It’s what fuels all of our activities.

You need carbs to build muscle. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, the keto diet might not be for you. In order to preserve the muscle mass you’re working so hard on, your body needs the fuel from carbohydrates to grow them. Healthy carbs that are great for muscle building include sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and beans. You’ll also get a good amount of fiber which helps curb your appetite.

Carbohydrates are crucial for brain function. This one is incredibly important. Like we mentioned above, the body needs glucose for fuel. Your brain runs on glucose and if you don’t consume enough, you’ll have a much tougher time thinking clearly, learning new things, and remembering them. Who wants brain fog? Not us!

Carbohydrates contain essential vitamins. Now we’re not talking about glucose from candy and chocolate here. We’ll get to the good vs. bad carbs in a bit. But when you do eat the good carbs, you’re getting a boost of vitamins your body craves. Many whole grain carbohydrates contain lots of B vitamins. Carbohydrates from fruit, in particular, are jam-packed with vitamins B and C.

They help prevent heart disease. Along with its buddy protein, carbs are a great way to keep your heart healthy and free of coronary disease. When eaten in moderation, whole grain carbs help lower cholesterol levels, which, in turn, reduce your risk of heart disease. Examples include brown rice and oatmeal.

No matter what your lifestyle is, carbs are part of an overall healthy diet. It’s just as important to know which ones you should be eating. There are three main types of carbohydrates in food:

  • Starches (known as complex carbs)
  • Sugars (known as simple carbs)
  • Fiber

If you look at a nutrition label, you will see these three categories under carbohydrates.  Now let’s dig in to what these three types actually are.

Starches include:

  • Grains (like oats, barley, rice)
  • Starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas)
  • Dried beans, lentils, and peas (pinto beans, black eyed peas)

Sugars include

  • Added sugars (added during food processing, like sugar in boxed cereal)
  • Natural sugars (like those in milk or fruit)

Fibers are a bit different. Fiber is naturally found in plant foods, but not in animal products like meat, fish, and dairy. It is the indigestible part of food, meaning that most of it passes through the body and is not digested.

Carbs we love: oats, quinoa, brown rice, farro, lentils, sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, beans

Carbs we don’t love: candy, soda, muffins, cookies, chips, fried foods

That’s not to say we don’t love a good chocolate chip cookie every now and then. Who doesn’t? Life is all about the balance and choosing which foods are right for your lifestyle. Carbohydrates occur naturally in many plant foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. These are the carbs we want more of. Choose wisely!



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