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There was a time when fat was the most feared macronutrient. Now, carbohydrates are getting a bad rap. We asked the experts…is the fear of carbs really warranted? According to our RDs and comprehensive nutrition research, the answer is a strong no! After reading this week’s Focus Point, you’ll have a better understanding of the value carbs offer instead of considering them the root of all dietary evil.

For a well-rounded diet, we need to eat a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. While most foods contain some amount of each macronutrient, often one nutrient is dominant. Carbs are the main macronutrient in fruit, dairy products, sweets, and starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta, and crackers.

Carbohydrates are extremely important for our bodies.  They are our number one source of energy and the only source of energy for our brain. Carbs are used to build and repair other body cells. It’s no wonder that eliminating carbs from your diet can result in fatigue, excessive muscle soreness, headaches, and poor exercise tolerance.

Let’s take a closer look at the three types of carbohydrates: simple, complex, and fiber.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs or “sugars” are broken down and used as quick energy for our body.  There are two types: natural and added.  Added sugars are found in highly processed foods such as sweetened beverages, candy, cookies, and white flour products.  They are low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Natural sugars are found in fruit and dairy products.  They do contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber; they are a great source of energy when looking for a pre-workout snack.

Complex carbs

These take longer to be absorbed and digested by the body, giving a sustained release of energy rather than a quick jolt.  The majority of our carbohydrate intake should come from this category. Sources such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain high amounts of nutrients, fiber, and a small amount of protein. It is important to remember that, although complex carbs are far more nutritious than simple carbs, they may still be high in calories so it is important to watch portion size.

Dietary fiber

Fiber is not used for energy but has many other benefits. Fiber can help regulate the digestive system and increase our feeling of fullness after eating.  High fiber foods include fruits with skin, whole grains like bran and oats, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

For this week and moving forward, focus on consuming brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  The carbs you will get from these sources are not your enemy; they’re a vital part of a well-balanced, healthy, and delicious eating plan.