Carbs are bad for you...aren't they???

“I’m going to cut carbs.” “I avoid carbs at night.” “Carbs are so bad for you!” “Carbs make you fat!”

You’ve likely heard someone say one or many of these, or you may have even thought this yourself. 

However, carbohydrates are our body’s main fuel source.  Every cell uses carbohydrates for its most basic function: being alive.  The main fuel source when doing any activity, including walking upstairs, is carbohydrates.  And certainly to be an effective athlete, carbohydrates are needed to be at optimum power and speed. The brain uses 120 g of carbohydrates, which is approximately 60% of all energy needed to be in a resting state.  And only part of the brain’s function can be replaced by ketones (ie the keto diet).

However, carbohydrates are our body’s main fuel source.  Every cell uses carbohydrates for its most basic function: being alive. 

For this reason, the body prefers 50-60% of total calories to come from carbohydrates.  In fact, those that had 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates lived 4 years longer than those who followed a low-carb diet (<30% energy from carbs).  To be able to meet that 50-55% range, one can’t do that with fruits and vegetables alone, you need whole grains such as bread, pasta, quinoa, granola, cereal or oatmeal.

 A research study from 2016 found that individuals who eat more whole grains have lower mortality rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease. An observational study from the Women’s Health Initiative also found that people with Type II Diabetes who eat at least 2 servings of whole grains per day have better control of their blood sugars.


Whole grains contain a variety of nutrients that cannot be obtained from fruit, vegetables, dairy or meat.

  •  83% of whole wheat is the endosperm. This provides us with energy (carbohydrates + protein).

  • The endosperm also contains dietary fibre and B vitamins. Whole grains are major source of dietary fibre in our diet, and is the main contributor to lowering cholesterol, blood sugars and managing healthy weights.

  • 14% consists of bran. This is the outer shell, which protects the seed. Bran contains dietary fibre, various B Vitamins, phytochemicals, and trace minerals (zinc, potassium magnesium, phosphorus).

  • 2-3% consists of the wheat germ. This component provides nourishment for the seed. It contains B Vitamins, Vitamin E, trace minerals, phytochemicals, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.


The biggest take away here:

Eating a variety of whole grains helps to increase feelings of satiety after meals. Satiety is the measure of fullness and satisfaction.  When we eliminate grains from a meal, such having just a smoothie for breakfast, or a salad for lunch, we are more likely to feel hungry quicker and with more intensity shortly afterwards.  This often results in mid-afternoon sugar cravings or intense urges at the end of the work day, which often leads to grabbing a donut in the break room or getting take-out on your way home as the thought of trying to make dinner is not even a possibility.  

This common effect cannot be overstated.  In fact, many people that come in to see us and feel that they can’t control cravings, or portion sizes or are not the weight they understand to be healthy for them, is a result of trying to “cut carbs”.  Often it’s not about trying to use behavioural skills to help with “willpower”, but in fact it means making sure that there is enough carbohydrates in someone’s diet.