When you hear the word carbohydrate what is the first thing you think of? Bread, pasta, unhealthy, avoid? Would you think of apples, sweet potatoes, brown rice, berries, or green peas, as a carbohydrate? Many don’t think of fruit, whole grains or vegetables as carbohydrates, but in fact, they are!
The word carbohydrate in our culture can be very misleading and cause an almost panic. With the help of media influencers, blogs, podcasts, and celebrity endorsements, carbohydrate has become a word of taboo. In 1972, Dr. Robert Atkins, developed the Atkins Diet to restrict carbohydrates in the diet allowing for a potential weight loss or decrease in chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Since this diet in 1972, we now see a culture based on achieving low carbohydrate or similar diets to the original Atkins Diet (Paleo , Ketogenic, etc.). However, when we reduce or eliminate a food group from our diet, we are more likely to increase another food group in the diet, usually being protein or fat.
Recent research (August 2018) published in The Lancet, found when individuals consumed less than 40% of their daily calories from carbohydrates had an increased mortality risk when replacing carbohydrates with animal protein (butter, beef, pork, etc.). Compared to those who consumed 50-55% of their daily calories from carbohydrates had a decreased mortality risk when utilizing plant-based protein (beans, vegetables, nuts, etc.) Individuals who consumed greater than 70% of their total calories from carbohydrates had an increased mortality risk as well.
What does this mean? Restricting carbohydrates is not the answer! Choosing carbohydrates rich in fiber and whole grains provide us with the energy our body needs. If you are unsure what 50-55% of your total calories coming from carbohydrate looks like for you, utilizing the Plate Method is a great resource to ensure proper portions and an adequate amount of carbs. It would also be advisable to discuss more specific numbers with a registered dietitian nutritionist. The next time you think about carbohydrates, think about the effect it can have on your life and the many different and healthy sources of carbohydrates.