Carbs have gone through a rough time lately as Paleo and Keto diets trend and have intimated carbohydrates as part of the obesity and diabetes problem. Suffice to say the answer to obesity and diabetes is much more complex and beyond the scope of this post so we’ll table the High Carb vs Low Carb discussion for another time.
Today is all about What’s a Carb?
Carbs, more formally known as carbohydrates, are the body’s main and preferred energy source. When you think energy, think calories.
Each gram of carbohydrate carries 4 calories of energy for our bodies to use. So how much energy do we get from the carbs we eat every day? The answer to that is, it depends!
One cup of raw spinach has only 1 gram of carbohydrate, 1 slice of whole wheat bread contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates, sweet potato (½ cup) with the skin contains about 21 grams of carbohydrates and a medium-sized apple with the skin has about 25 grams of carbohydrates and 1 package of skittles has 50 grams of carbohydrates!
So if we’re looking for energy, it looks like skittles is the food of choice. Not exactly. All carbohydrates are not created equal. There are 2 types of carbohydrates; simple and complex. Skittles and other types of candy along with highly processed foods like pastries, cookies, cakes and crackers to name a few, are considered simple carbs and, while high in carbohydrates, are usually devoid of vital ingredients and nutrients and therefore do not provide us with the long lasting energy our bodies require. Complex carbohydrate foods are foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These foods are high in carbohydrate calories but also chock full of other nutrients and fibers which provide our body with sustainable energy!
When consuming your carbohydrates follow a couple of easy rules.
- Eat whole foods and mostly plants like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- If it’s in a package, check the Nutrition Facts label. When you multiply the grams of fiber per serving by 5, if the result is less than the grams of carbohydrates per serving, put the food back on the shelf. It’s likely high in simple carbohydrates and not the best source of energy.