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Busting Four Common Carb Myths

    • June 6, 2024
    • Eat Well
    • 5 minute read
  • Laura O'Hara MS, RD/LD

Myth #1: Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.

Fact: Not all carbs are created equal. Carbs give us energy and can actually help us lose weight when choosing high-fiber complex carbohydrates.

Our bodies thrive on carbs for energy. Without enough carbs in your diet, you could experience low energy, weakness, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and even depression. It is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that we get about 45-65% of our daily calories from foods with carbohydrates. When we eat too little carbohydrates, we feel tired and do not feel our best mentally or physically. Of course, limiting certain carbohydrates such as sweet treats, potato chips, and soda pop has health benefits and can lead to weight loss. This is because you are cutting out extra calories from added sugars and fats that those foods and drinks contain.

Your goal should be to eat more complex carbohydrates. These carbs have vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they take longer to digest. Examples of these include grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables (even potatoes!) Eating these foods will leave you feeling more full thanks to their high fiber content. Plus adding these types of carbs to your diet can cut down on cravings for sweets. Eating these complex carbs with proteins and non-starchy vegetables will give you a well-balanced meal, and you will feel energized to take on your day. This could look like: Chicken breast, broccoli, and a grain like brown rice or a sweet potato for dinner, or oatmeal with a veggie egg scramble for breakfast. And don’t worry – you do not need to cut out bread or pasta. You can increase fiber and protein in these foods by choosing whole-grain versions or gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas.

Myth #2: Carbs cause weight gain.

Fact: One of the factors that causes weight gain is eating more calories than you burn in a day. Weight gain is not due to carbs themselves but from the over-consumption of any type of food. Simple carbs like cakes, cookies, ice cream, soda, chips, etc., have added sugars that are naturally higher in calories. Focus on consuming less of these simple carbs and more of the complex carbs such as whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These foods contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep us fuller longer and maintain a healthy weight.

Myth #3: Avoid all white foods, especially as a diabetic.

Fact: While some white foods such as white rice and white flour are missing healthful nutrients and fiber that’s found in foods like whole grain bread or whole grain flour, many white foods are high in nutrients. Cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, and garlic are great examples of this. Potatoes and bananas, specifically, get a bad reputation; however, they both contain potassium which is vital for maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure, and they provide other beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber which is important for brain health, metabolism, and immune function. It is true that these foods will raise blood sugars at a quicker rate due to their high carbohydrate content, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy them. Just remember to monitor your portion sizes and eat your carbs with healthy proteins and fats for a balanced meal that will help balance your blood sugar.

Myth #4: Fruit is bad because it is high in carbs.

Fact: Fruit contains sugar, which is a type of carb. But fruit is also full of healthful nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber). Fruit contains a natural sugar called fructose, which is recommended over processed sugars like you would find in candy. Cutting fruit out of your diet will cause you to miss out on a lot of healthy nutrients. When buying canned or frozen fruit, be sure the labels say no added sugars. When drinking fruit juice, it is best to stick to 100% fruit juice at a serving size of about 4 oz, as it lacks fiber and may contain added sugars, which we want to limit in our diet. 4 oz equals about the size of your cupped palm or about the size of a small portable hand sanitizer bottle.

ArchWell Health members have the opportunity to discuss nutrition concerns or questions at every appointment. Your primary care provider can help you better understand how carbs fit into your overall nutrition plan.

The article provides information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice and not meant to replace professional medical advice. Linking to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

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About the Author

Laura O'Hara MS, RD/LD, Nutrition Education Program Manager

Laura was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and landed in Oklahoma City after graduating college at Oklahoma State University (go pokes!) She obtained a master's degree in nutrition, and officially became a Registered Dietitian in 2019. Since then, Laura has worked with people of all ages and all conditions, from neonates to seniors. Laura says, "My passion for the senior population grew immensely when I heard of and learned about ArchWell Health and their value-based care model, and I quickly realized the growing need for and importance of nutrition education in this specific population."

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