Carbs… Are they Good For You or Bad For You?
Whichever answer you are hoping for, you don’t have to look long to find the evidence to support it! In full disclosure, I actually love carbs. It’s actually the macronutrient that makes up the highest percentage of my diet. (Protein is a close second.) Still, I’d like to think that I can give an objective opinion on the topic. A low carb diet may work for some people. In fact, it may even be recommended for people with certain medical conditions. If that’s you, by all means, do what the doctor ordered.
However, if you are a natural carb lover like me, and you are white knuckling your way through each day, trying to convince yourself that you can’t have them if you want to lose weight, then read on. I am here to tell you that it’s just not true.
Sorry, You Can’t Eat That…
Vegetables fall into the carbohydrate group. I roast vegetables several times per week, and eat a salad full of raw vegetables at least once a day. I eat A LOT of vegetables! Fruit is made up of carbohydrates too, and I eat berries or an apple with my Greek yogurt almost every day. While low carb diets do seem to allow some lower carbohydrate vegetables like lettuces, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower, I really struggle to believe that the majority of people should avoid starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets, carrots, onions, etc.
Believe me, the list goes on and on.
As for fruit, I hope you love berries, which I do, but that’s all you will be able to have. Forget watermelon in the summer, bananas in your smoothie, or pineapple if you are lucky enough to travel to Hawaii! Frozen grapes as a snack? Forget it. Sliced Oranges. Nope. And definitely no apples or pears, in spite of the fact that many of these foods are great sources of fiber.
Even pistachios and cashews are off limits.
Quinoa? Brown Rice? Not those either.
Too many carbs, they say.
But Is It Really Good For Me?
So my concern is, whether or not a low carbohydrate diet can be healthy for the long term? Even if you found a way to eat your greens while going low carb, you would still be missing out on so many of the nutrients and other beneficial, disease-fighting compounds that are available when eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from all the colors of the rainbow.
And while a multivitamin may be beneficial for some people, don’t let anyone convince you that it is a superior alternative to real food!
What about the worst of the worst…Bread!
I LOVE bread, especially sourdough or whole grain bread. I may not eat as much of it as I used to, and will readily admit that more whole foods and fewer processed foods seem to work better for us as we age, but nothing beats a piece of sourdough toast with almond butter and half a sliced banana in the mornings.
I also eat whole grains, mostly oatmeal, either with eggs or as one of the main ingredients in my protein pancakes. They are good for both heart and gut health. As someone with a family history of colon cancer, I want to do everything I can to protect myself!
Carbs Are Important if You Want a Good Workout.
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source. While it can use other macronutrients, like fat, for energy, it isn’t your body’s first choice. Getting adequate carbohydrate consumption is essential for maintaining optimum glycogen stores, which affects performance and recovery. If you work out, and you are trying to adhere to a strict, low carb diet, you might find yourself hitting the proverbial wall that athletes refer to.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live on a diet that keeps me
too exhausted to work out!
This is especially true if you like to push yourself when you work out, or if you like to do longer workouts.
Whether you are doing cardiovascular exercise or strength training, you are going to need adequate carbs to give you the energy to complete a challenging workout.
But Everyone’s Going Low Carb!
Not So Fast!
In many of the Blue Zones, areas of the world with the longest lived people, diets include a moderate to high percentage of carbohydrates. Some of them eat diets as high as 65% carbs!
If you aren’t familiar with the study of the Blue Zones, you should check them out. These nonagenarians and centenarians are just sitting around in their rocking chairs! Frankly, I’d like to live out the last half of my life like they do, and apparently, they aren’t afraid of carbs.
It May Work for Some People, But it Didn’t Work For Me.
Ok. So, yes, I do know people who eat lower carb and higher fat diets, and for some people, that may work. Let me just share though, that several years back, I started eating that way too. I let people convince me that I needed to eat this way because I was older, and couldn’t “process” carbs as well as I used to. Plus, I honestly just wanted to see what it was all about. (FYI, women, especially as we age, seem to have more challenges with the low carb diet lifestyle.)
Something happened when I went low carb though. My cholesterol went up. Not my good cholesterol either, but my LDLs, the kind that you don’t want to go up. This wasn’t’ good. I realized that I needed to go back to eating in a way that made me feel good, provided me the energy I needed for my workouts, and gave me confidence that I was eating in a way that was healthiest for my body. I knew that a low carbohydrate diet for life wasn’t right for me. You will have to make your own decision.
I am not telling you how to eat. I don’t think there is one right way to eat for everyone anyway.
BUT, if you really like foods higher in carbohydrates, and you are giving them up because someone has convinced you that oats, butternut squash and sourdough bread are bad, and that you will not be able to reach your goal weight if you eat them, then I am here to tell you that I don’t believe it for a second, and that it’s not been my experience. Nor has it been the experience of a lot of other women I know in their 40s and 50s.
Of course, if you have a specific medical condition, or if your doctor has told you to do something different, then by all means, don’t let my story derail you. However, do your research. There is a lot of bad and misleading information out there that is causing a lot of women, especially women like us in our 40s and 50s, to miss out on some really good food!
Enjoying fruits and vegetables and whole grains every day, and bread on occasion too,