"Watch your carbs" is a common phrase heard by people trying to lose weight. But what exactly do carbohydrates do for our bodies?
Carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods, the most common and abundant being breads, pastas and starches. The main function of a carbohydrate is to provide energy by converting to sugar, known as glucose, in the bloodstream.
Glucose is the only form of energy used by the brain. Maintaining a steady flow of glucose in the blood helps to ensure optimal fat burning efficiency, peak performance, long-term appetite control and minimal food craving. However, excess and unused glucose in the blood is stored as fat, whereas too little glucose in the blood can lead to muscle loss.
Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source and can supply fiber, vitamins and minerals to the body through a variety of foods, such as beans, whole grains, milk, corn, fruits and vegetables. Because of this, experts strongly recommend a diet incorporating a wide variety of carb food sources.
What About Low- or No-Carb Diets?
You may recall recent popular low- and no-carb diet fads. Many individuals jumped on the bandwagon to help shed those pesky extra pounds, not fully realizing carbohydrates in and of themselves do not actually lead to weight gain. However, excessive intake of carbohydrates, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet will lead to a wider waistline.
Because carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel, lack of carbohydrates in the diet can lead to fatigue, decreased brain function, muscle breakdown, ketosis (starvation), nausea, bad breath and depression. While limiting your carb intake is sometimes okay, removing carbohydrates from your diet is unwise.
Source: MyHealthLibrary, UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Weight Loss Specialists