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

Why Does My Body Need Carbs?

Carbohydrates are “the body’s preferred energy source,” says Feller. We need them, nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick adds, because “our brain needs the glucose found in carbs to function.” Glucose is the main fuel our body uses to make energy. Once you consume a carbohydrate, Kirkpatrick explains, the carbs are converted into glucose (aka sugar). At this point in the process, the pancreas is signaled to produce insulin that is responsible to take the sugar from the carbs you ingested and carry them into your cells where it can be converted and used as energy in our bodies.

More: Gain Your Energy Back in 4 Easy Steps

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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