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What the Health: Carbohydrates

Are carbs really the devil? Or are they misunderstood?
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ANANYA ANANTH/THE VARSITY
ANANYA ANANTH/THE VARSITY

My entire life, I have always been told to avoid carbohydrates at all costs. In media or when talking to friends and family, one message was always very clear: carbs are the devil incarnate. 

However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve actually come to see the benefits of having a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates. So, it’s time to reach a verdict — are carbs really the macronutrient to avoid?

First and foremost, let’s get some background information on carbohydrates. There are two kinds of carbohydrates you can consume in your diet: simple carbs — also known as sugars — and complex carbs — also known as starches and fibres. As you can probably tell based on this list, carbohydrates are a great source of fuel in your diet. In fact, carbohydrates are mainly turned into glucose by the body — the sugar that is the gasoline to our body’s engine: the brain! 

Many weight loss diets tell you to avoid carbohydrates in order to ‘burn fat.’ Of course, the downside of this is that you end up losing a lot of fuel for your body — you may lose weight, but you’ll likely be miserable doing so. Instead, you should consider finding healthier ways of incorporating carbohydrates in your diet, such as by eating foods that are nutrient dense.

Whole grains, such as quinoa, are not only full of fibre, but have protein as well — another source of energy for the body and a big contributor to muscle and tissue maintenance. Fruits and vegetables contain dietary fibres, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. 

You should avoid juices and grab a whole fruit to limit spikes in sugar levels. Also, be sure to avoid refined carbs such as white bread products, and instead, opt for whole-grain options, such as brown rice and the aforementioned quinoa.