Why You Should Be Eating More Carbs, Not Less

Carbs are an essential part of any diet.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda Fitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
Expertise Fitness and Wellness
Giselle Castro-Sloboda
4 min read
Breads, pastas, oats and grains

If you eliminate carbs, these are the key nutrients you're missing out on. 

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Diet culture has given carbohydrates a bad rep: Many people mistakenly think carbs cause weight gain or are unhealthy. However, research and experts alike have repeatedly corrected untrue information about carbs.

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In fact, carbohydrates are one of the key macronutrients we should all be eating. There are two different types of carbs: complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carbs are high in fiber and are found in whole, unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Meanwhile, simple carbs are found in sugars and refined starches that have been stripped of their natural fiber and nutrients, like cookies, soda and baked goods. Simple carbs have low nutritional value, and even though they're OK to eat, limiting them in your diet is usually recommended.

Despite this, carbs offer many benefits that you may be denying yourself if you eliminate them from your diet. There are many helpful reasons you should be adding more carbs to your diet. Check out the many benefits of eating carbs, and make sure to stock up on your favorite types.

See more: 8 Muscle-Building Foods to Gain Lean Muscle

Carbs give you energy

When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose, which is then used by the cells as its primary energy source. This gives you the burst of energy you need to do everyday functions like exercising, for example. Without carbohydrates, you'd feel exhausted and lack the energy necessary to get through a Crossfit class or a long run. Once the body uses the adequate glucose it needs from the carbohydrates, the rest is broken down as glycogen and stored within the liver and muscles.

Carbs provide essential vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients and are necessary to keep you healthy. Carbohydrates provide essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins and more. These also function as antioxidants, which are necessary to protect you against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The best way to get many of these essential vitamins and nutrients is by eating a balanced diet with carbs to help support your system. If you think you are deficient in a specific nutrient, it's best to speak with your doctor, who can run the proper tests and recommend the right foods and supplements. 

Carbs keep you regular

If you struggle with constipation, you may lack insoluble or soluble fiber in your diet. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water and can be found in whole grains, brown rice, oats, nuts, and fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber easily dissolves in water and helps slow digestion and is known to help prevent certain diseases. Fiber is the key to keeping your bowel movements regular on a daily basis. A good way to add fiber to your diet is by eating more complex carbohydrates. 

Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes. Complex carbs digest slowly compared to simple carbs. The body can't digest fiber; therefore, it is slow to break down and keeps you fuller longer. They are also less likely to cause your blood sugar to spike, which is important if you have diabetes and need to keep track of your blood sugar. 

See more: Cutting Carbs? A Dietitian Explains 6 Reasons You Shouldn't

Carbs help with brain function

Carbs keep your brain functioning efficiently. The brain uses 20% of the total body energy burned daily. You've probably noticed on days when you've barely eaten carbs that you experience brain fog, moodiness and exhaustion. That's because the brain relies on carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. Research shows that complex carbohydrates help the brain age healthily and improve short and long-term memory. Additionally, it's recommended that school-age children eat breakfasts high in carbohydrates to help with their cognitive function. It's important to fuel your body with healthy carbs or complex carbohydrates so your brain can perform well and for long-term energy.

Carbs help with muscle building 

If one of your goals is to build muscle or if you're focusing on body recomposition, carbs can help you achieve this. Although protein is one of the key macronutrients you should eat to build muscle, carbohydrates can make or break your performance at the gym. As previously mentioned, carbs that aren't used for immediate energy are turned into glycogen. That glycogen is stored in your muscles and provides the energy needed to lift heavier or run further.

A lack of carbohydrates can make you feel depleted and weak when working out. Athletes like marathoners or powerlifters aim to maximize muscle glycogen stores by carbo-loading ahead of a big event for this reason. Carbohydrates also help with muscle recovery and repair after a workout, so it's important to ensure your post-workout meal includes carbs and protein. 

For more helpful information on nutrition and bettering your health, check out our stories on tips for lowering your risk of heart disease and the best and worst foods for high blood pressure.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.