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Carbohydrates and fat are the two main fuel sources your body uses to produce energy. When you’re exercising at a high intensity, carbohydrates are the main fuel source your muscles use to contract.
Yet carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation over the last decade, thanks to the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets.
Proponents of low-carb diets like to make claims about carbohydrates and the effect they have on the body, but some of these assertions are unproven by science.
Let’s look at five common myths about carbohydrates that you should stop believing.
Myth #1: All Carbohydrates Have The Same Effect On Your Body
People who practice a very low-carbohydrate diet are of the opinion that all carbohydrates are unhealthy and that you’re better off consuming more fat relative to carbohydrates.
The reality is that carbohydrates vary in the effect they have on blood sugar control. The types that cause a sharp rise in blood glucose are refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar.
In contrast, whole food sources of carbohydrates, like fruits and vegetables, contain fiber to subdue blood sugar spikes. In fact, some fruits and non-starchy vegetables have little impact on blood sugar control, and when you add them to meals, the fiber reduces blood glucose spikes.
Don’t lump all carbohydrates together; it’s the refined ones you want to avoid.
Myth #2: The Natural Sugar In Fruit Causes Blood Glucose Spikes
Extreme low-carb diet plans often exclude all fruit, with the possible exception of berries since they’re lowest in natural sugar.
Fruit contains two types of sugar: fructose and glucose. However, fructose doesn’t cause a rise in blood sugar like glucose does. However, it’s also not healthy since the liver can convert it to blood fats called triglycerides.
Some research links fructose with a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The biggest risk is from consuming concentrated sources of fructose, like the high-fructose corn syrup in many packaged foods.
There’s little evidence that consuming the natural fructose in whole fruit causes blood sugar spikes or increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver.
Whole fruit contains fiber and polyphenols that prevent blood glucose spikes.
In fact, a 2017 study found that consuming fruit more than three times per week was associated with a 17 reduced risk of dying from all causes and a lower risk of developing complications from diabetes.
If you’re concerned about the natural sugar in fruit, berries are a good option since they’re the lowest in sugar.
Myth #3: You’ll Lose More Weight If You Go Low Carbohydrate
You can lose weight on a low-carbohydrate diet, but you can also lose on a low-fat diet.
Although the quality of what you eat counts, calories have an impact on weight loss too. You can’t completely ignore them if you’re trying to get leaner.
One study found that restricting calories led to weight loss, irrespective of whether the diet was high or low in carbohydrates or fat. In fact, an analysis of 23 studies carried out by HealthLine.com found a low-fat diet was as effective as a low-carbohydrate one for dropping pounds, and there was some suggestion that the low-fat diet was more beneficial for weight loss.
Another trial, called the Pounds Lost trial, found similar amounts of weight loss regardless of the ratio of protein to carbs to fat.
You don’t have to give up all carbohydrates or greatly restrict them to lose weight. The key is to make healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrate choices and not overeat.
Myth #4: Natural Sweeteners Are Better For You Than Sugar
It’s true that sugar is bad for your metabolic health and your health in general. It’s devoid of nutrients but still contains calories.
In hopes of getting the taste of sweetness without the negative effects of sugar, some people turn to less processed sweeteners such as agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup. Agave syrup is high in fructose, sometimes more so than sugar, and it lacks the fiber that fruit does.
Therefore, making agave syrup your chosen sweetener increases the fructose load on your body and forces your liver to work harder to process it. Over time, this may increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, especially if you’re overweight.
Honey and maple syrup are less processed than sugar and contain a few more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but can cause a rise in blood glucose similar to sugar.
Myth #5: Whole Grains Are High In Carbohydrates And Cause Inflammation
Whole grains are a source of carbohydrates but are also rich in fiber.
When carbohydrates are combined with fiber, they have a different effect on blood glucose than processed carbohydrates that contain little or no fiber.
While refined carbohydrates may cause low-grade inflammation, research shows that whole grains have the opposite effect; they reduce inflammation. In fact, a study found that people who eat more whole grains have lower levels of inflammatory markers.
The Bottom Line
Now you can make a more informed decision on what kind of carbohydrates and how much you should add to your diet.
There’s no need to remove all carbohydrates from your diet, but, instead, choose smarter.