Carbs is Not a 4 Letter Word

Carbs is not a 4-letter word – C-A-R-B-S ….it’s actually 5, right? But you would think it’s a 4-letter one from the way people talk about it today either blaming or whispering or confessing about their carbs. [Just looking for delicious better nutrition carbs – scroll to the end for the recipes].

These days there’s even a whole new lexicon around carbs

  • Carbohydrate was once just a noun used to refer to a macronutrient became ‘carbs’ the noun to avoid, to blame, and to count.
  • “Too carby” the adverb joined our lexicon to judge foods, meals, and beverages.
  • “To carb” (“I carb’d last night” “Oh did we carb on vacation”) arrived as a verb to help us confess our nutrition sins.
  • “______ carb” and then came the adjectives – like net carbs, bad carbs, complex carbs –arrived to help us define which carbs are in, and which, like Project Runway’s Heidi Klum so famously coined “are out”!

Well, like CARBS there’s another 5-letter word for all of this – WRONG (or at least #NotBetter).

Now don’t get me wrong, there are bad carbs. But there are better ones. Let’s sort the carb situation

making better carb choices more often delivers more nutrients

Some carbs are bad, some are better

  • Hyper processed, highly refined and fortified, poor quality sources, higher than nature’s sweetness (from artificial and natural sources)
    • They don’t give your body what it needs to run better and
    • These may even irritate or overwhelm its efforts.
  • Beans/legumes/pulses, grains, starchy vegetables, fruits and even unrefined sugars can be better carbs because they provide the body nutrients it can and wants to use, easily.
    • You should enjoy these in their whole food forms
better nutrition carbs tip
  • Consuming too many carbs – any kind – at one time is not better for anybody.
  • Consuming carbs alone is not better (and actually pretty difficult).
  • Extensive processing removes nutrients or significant amounts of them that aid the body in using the naturally occurring sugars in carbs
  • Highly refined carbs are poor quality choices even when fortified with some nutrients
  • Refined carb products with artificial or “natural” calorie-free sweeteners are not better.
  • Carbs should deliver nutrients other than natural sugars – like fibers, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Different carbs offer different nutrients including different types and amounts of sugars.
  • Glycemic load of your meal matters more than the glycemic index of your carb.

“About 70% of Americans don’t get in enough magnesium, the mineral that their cells need to turn off stress. When you refine wheat into white flour there’s about a 70% loss in magnesium.”

Ashley Koff RD

Cheater, cheater sugar-free pumpkin spice eater

Here’s how to bust the most common carbs myths:

  • Using non-caloric sweeteners is cheating, just ask your taste-buds and energy. When you give your body something that is 100s or 1000s of times sweeter, the body adjusts it’s wants and needs (it’s like giving your child $100 instead of $1, the next time you give him $1 he’s gonna be like ‘yo dad, where’s the other $99). Every year we chase the next “better sweetener” so we can cheat and claim “healthy” but if an apple doesn’t taste sweet to you all by itself, look at your intake of sweeteners, have you been cheatin’?
  • It’s better to enjoy Cauliflower AND carbs. Cauliflower is awesome but it isn’t a carb. It’s nutrient dense and it’s helped us learn that some white foods are actually better. But cauliflower doesn’t provide the same nutrients that other carbs do. My favorite thing about cauliflower is it allows you to enjoy other carbs. I can have cauliflower rice in my bowl and top it with beans or sweet potato cubes, greens, hemp seeds and avocado. This makes for a better carb bowl.
  • Busted! Foul-smelling gas, body odor and bloating are your body calling you out for your cheating. Carbs feed our good bacteria, so we need them for better health. Chewing sugar-free gum, sipping on non-caloric flavored beverages, choosing kombucha over-eating an apple, these won’t help your good guys (probiotics) have a happy home life. And that’s when they send you messages like skin issues, foul-smelling gas, body odor and bloating.
fruit carbs
Is it ok to have fruit? Can I have as much fruit as I want?

What’s the better prescription for carbs?

It’s personal. For example, if you are pre-diabetic or if you are growing another body inside of you, your carb needs will be different. But here are some general rules:

  • Most people do better with 1-2 servings carbs at an eating occasion (that’s 15-30g). Use this for a guide to carb portions and to track your intake.
  • Aim to pit stop for eating occasions throughout the day – even if eating in a narrow window (8-10 hours) – like every 3-4 hours, rather than all at once
  • Enjoy your carbs with other foods to create better nutrient balance. Many nutrients in carbs are fat-soluble meaning that the addition of a quality fat will help them be absorbed as well as slow the pace of the carbs in your body. I love how Ali Miller RD CDE says “the issue isn’t carbs, it’s naked carbs.”
  • Carbs give the body energy, so when less energy is needed (for example, in the evening to prepare the body for bed), go lighter on carbs, and consider replacing with non-starchy vegetables.
  • Set your personal added sugar budget (you can use this to do that) and also set your budget for non-caloric sweeteners.

How do I know what is better for me or my patients?

Our tools make it easy to assess and deliciously doable to upgrade carbs intake for better health results.

  • Individuals use our menus and guides to discover better carbs choices or connect with one of our practitioners to evaluate your current total nutrition.
  • Healthcare practitioners, The BNP Toolkit™ includes practitioner versions of evaluations to assess current total nutrition helping you better identify their nutrient needs and personalize their better total nutrition plan. Choose a time to discuss with us here.

Want some deliciously doable ways to carb better? Check out these recipes