The Truth About Carbs (and Why You Need Them)

Learn why carbohydrates should be a part of your healthy diet.

The Truth About Carbs (and Why You Need Them)

By Toni Gasparis

With low-carb snacks and no-carb diets, figuring out whether you should be eating carbohydrates can be confusing. While many people view carbs as a negative and non-essential nutrient, they actually play a very integral part in the healthy functioning of your body. In fact, if we don’t get enough carbs in our system our body can look for fuel in other areas such as our muscles and it can even impact our liver. Dr. Oz’s trusted experts and nutritionists Maya Feller, Kristin Kirkpatrick, and Rachel Swanson are here to help explain what carbs are and why they’re important, as well as the types you should and should not be eating.

More: 10 Foods a Nutritionist Never Eats

Good Carbs to Eat

Low glycemic index carbohydrates are the best to include in your diet. According to Feller, the types of carbs found in foods such as whole grains and vegetables maintain “regular and consistent” glucose spikes that are healthier for the body. A great way to make sure you’re eating low glycemic index carbs is to modify the carbohydrates you already eat. For example, Feller suggests swapping out white rice for brown or black rice, or regular oatmeal for steel-cut oats. Another key factor to remember when eating carbs is to make sure they are complex carbohydrates that include fiber. Kirkpatrick says that because fiber is non-digestible in the body the impact on your blood sugar is less severe. Just because you should eat complex carbs doesn’t mean you should rule out simple carbohydrates, says Swanson. While most simple carbs are processed, fruit is a simple carb because sugar is broken down quickly for energy. Swanson stresses the importance of eating whole fruit in your daily diet: “Drinking a glass of apple juice will have a much different metabolic response than eating a whole apple, the former of which doesn’t offer the same satiety nor the marked health benefits.”

More: High and Low Glycemic Foods

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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