Hello, my name is Ice Cream Unicorn Princess, but you can call me Amy for short. I rule the land of gumdrops and lollipops. My throne is made of pound cake and strawberries, but I spend most of my time in my chocolate pool floating on a sprinkle doughnut, amongst my marshmallow peep swans.
Welcome to the magical land of carbs!
Did I go too far? Nah. Are you hungry? Probably.
But alas, my sugary harmonious solitude has been disrupted by the evil Captain Keto and his army of on-trend diet Gremlins. Spreading messages of carb hate, macro disruption and general feelings of unrest amongst the citizens of Carbland. You might imagine that my subjects are all overweight, lethargic chubby bunnies, but you would be wrong. Despite common belief, the root of all weight gain evil in the world is not carbohydrates and I promise this is not biased. Your world is not much different than mine. You are surrounded by all the temptations and the skeptics like Captain Keto, so lets lay this to rest with solid facts.
Before we separate fantasy from fact, let the Ice Cream Unicorn Princess enlighten you. Carbohydrates are one of the main macronutrients your body needs, alongside fat & protein. (We will visit these worlds at another time.) Carbs are the most readily available source of energy for your body and the most preferred. Your body breaks down carbs into glucose (sugar in your blood) and then your blood transports this fuel all over your body to provide the energy needed to do all things (such as warding off evil armies).
Unless told by a doctor, carbs are part of a balanced healthy diet. Now to be honest not all carbs are created equal. It is important to know which (and how much) you should be eating. I am going to cover the most common carb fantasies and the real solid truth. Let’s begin.
Fantasy#1: Carbs turn you into a Chubby Bunny.
Fact: We want to find a singular cause to blame for being unhappy with our current state of health. (Yes I am calling us all out right now!) When it comes to food, most commonly people blame carbs! Here is the truth.
People love carbs and tend to overeat them. It is not the carbs themselves that cause weight gain, but the overeating that is the problem.
High Sugar, low fiber candy, cookies, muffins and chips are addicting! Literally. Studies have shown that sugar causes a similar chemical reaction in your brain that street drugs such as heroin or cocaine do, causing you to want or crave more. These are unfortunately lumped together under the same carbohydrate umbrella as nutrient dense foods such as fruits, veggies and grains. They all get a bad wrap! But are not created equal. So what is boils down to is this…
“If you consume more calories than your body needs—whether or not it contains carbohydrate—you can gain an unhealthy amount of weight,” says Elisa Zeid, R.D., author of Younger Next Week.
So before you blame the carbs, take a look at what you are eating daily.
Fantasy #2: All simple carbs are unhealthy.
Fact: In the Ice Cream Unicorn Princess land of carbs, simple carbs such as gumdrops and lollipops (although delicious) are those that give simple carbs a bad name. Full of refined sugar these treats, raise blood sugar levels, spike insulin and can lead to storage of unwanted body fat. However there are actual healthy examples of unrefined simple carbs such as fruit and dairy.
So simple carbs are really getting their bad name from their lack of fiber, which slows down the blood sugar spike and keeps you feeling full for longer. Fruit, although a simple carb is full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Fruity Pebbles on the other hand is a simple carb with little to no fiber or nutritional value.
Simple Carbs have their time and place. They are ideal surrounding a workout when quick energy and replenishment is needed in the body.
Ryan Andrews, Precision Nutrition, raises a great point; “All carbohydrates we consume are digested into monosaccharides or simple sugars before they’re absorbed by the body, regardless of whether the food source is a simple sugar cube or a high-fiber, low glycemic index bowl of oatmeal. It’s just that the “healthier carbs” are digested and absorbed much slower while the “non-healthy” carbs are digested very quickly.”
So moral of this fantasy, choose your simple carbs wisely in both food source and timing to maximize the benefits of these fat acting sugars.
Fantasy #3: Pools of pasta and bread boats are bad!
Fact: Returning to our chubby bunny conversation, overeating these items often is bad for your waist line, but pairing pasta or your favorite crusty bread with a lean protein and veggies as part of a well rounded meal is what we like to call BALANCE my friends!
“It’s easier for a lot of people to cut off whole categories of food than to eat moderately,” says Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University. And a lot of people report that they feel better and lose weight when they cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates, she says. Yet there’s no reason, she adds, that bread, pasta and plain old sugar should be completely off-limits, as some diets (and Captain Keto) may recommend. In moderation, they’ll do you no harm.
Instead of making spaghetti the enemy, think about pairing the complex carb with healthy foods, like lean proteins, legumes, and veggies, Elisa Zied, R.D. says. “Pasta is a perfect vehicle for cooking with many foods,” she says. Plus, it's quick and easy to prepare. Hearty grains like quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, and farro are also all great bases for a healthy, satisfying meal. Just be sure to keep your portions in check; a single serving of cooked pasta equals about one cup or the size of your fist.
Fantasy #4: Falling in line with the low carb diet Gremlins is the only way you will reach your goals and lose weight.
Fact: Don’t let Captain Keto’s charming and witty promises fool you. Low carb land may look glamorous, but here are the facts. Eating a low-carb, high-protein diet will likely help you to lose weight quickly. (That is what you want right? Wrong.) Wait why is that wrong? Because this lifestyle is almost always unsustainable and often people gain the weight back, and then some.
As I mentioned before our bodies need carbs for energy and brain function. Eventually in a low carb diet, your body will begin to use fat for fuel (ketosis) which can have unwanted effects such as chronic bad breath and constipation. Not to mention it is still being researched how low carb diets affect the body over a long period of time.
So instead of cutting them out completely we go back to balance and moderation. Also including more complex carbohydrates that will help you stay full for longer.
Fantasy and fact revealed, how are you feeling now? Empowered and knowledgeable enough to take a stand against Captain Keto and the Gremlins. I sure hope so. Find your own balance like my home girl Goldilocks… not too much, not too little, just the right amount of carbohydrate in your day to give you the best results. In the mean time, I am always here living in the land of carbs ready to answer any questions! Come visit any time. It is lovely here.
Ice Cream Unicorn Princess aka. Amy