Benefits of eating carbs (carbohydrates) include Carbs fuel your brain, helps reduce bloating, makes you happier, lowers the risk of cardiac diseases, makes you sleep better, prevents weight gain, cuts cancer risk, keeps you energetic, aids in digestion, helps trim your waistline, helps burn more fat, improves muscle mass, and increases your lifespan.
About every year, a new diet trend comes out to fuel the high-carb low-protein or high-protein low carb face off. Sometimes you’ll say, ‘all hail carbs’. Sometimes you’ll say, ‘all hail protein’. But what’s most important in terms of living healthier isn’t really about who wins. It’s about what your body needs.
Sure, carbs have been villainized as unhealthy, ‘not good for the heart’, causes diabetes, and whatnot. While it is true that processed, instant carbohydrates and artificial fats make us sick, but it is wrong to say all carbs are created equal. As it turns out, your body depends on carbs (the good, healthy carbs, at least) to function properly.
In this article, you can find out all you need to know about carbohydrates (the good and the bad) their sources, health benefits, and more.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that are essential for our body – the others being protein and fat. There are two kinds of carbs:
- Simple carbohydrates: They basically include sugars found in foods. Example: Table sugar, honey, dairy products, fruit and fruit juice.
- Complex Carbohydrates: These are starches which can be broken down to simple sugars. Example: Rice, bread, crackers, pasta, corn, peas, butternut, sweet potatoes, etc.,
13 Amazing Health Benefits of Eating Carbs (Carbohydrates)
1. Carbs fuel your brain
That’s important, because your brain needs glucose, and it can’t store much. So, you need to replenish the levels through carb-rich foods. If glucose level falls below the optimal levels, your brain will start to act weird. You may start to experience brain fog, a type of cognitive dysfunction involving memory, learning, and focus.
In short, if you want to stay focused all day, and energized, carbs are the ticket.
2. They help reduce bloating
Sure, poor digestion of certain complex carbs is one of the many reasons behind excess gas and bloating. However, good carbs, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain plenty of dietary fiber. And, fiber is good to maintain bowel movements. That means you are less likely to feel bloated because your body constantly and efficiently eliminate waste.
3. They will make you happier
Are you at your happiest when a bowl of pasta is in your presence? You should eat more (well, with non-creamy sauce and less cheese). Why? Studies say that most carb foods contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. With low tryptophan—and therefore serotonin—you’re more likely to get anxious or depressed.
Choose whole foods carbs like fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, and whole grains — all of which contain B vitamins (which also help to increase serotonin) and dietary fiber. Keep in mind that processed carbs may work antagonistically and may spike up blood sugar levels, leaving you with other health issues.
4. Lower the risk of cardiac diseases
Quizzical looks? We got it. Carbs can either improve or worsen your heart health. Oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples, and blueberries are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is essential to reducing the spiked-up blood sugar levels and lowering LDL cholesterol. And, its well known that high circulating levels of both sugar and LDL cholesterol are detrimental to your heart.
Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol molecules and ushers them out your body. That means your heart remains stronger and healthier. That said, if you drink more soda or east cheesy pasta or processed carbs, don’t expect any benefits.
5. Eat good carb. Sleep Better
Did you know that carb-rich meals and snacks can potentially help you sleep better? Carbohydrates increase insulin levels, which in turn increase tryptophan and boost serotonin production. By countering the hyperactivation of energizing hypocretin neurons, serotonin ensures restful sleep. No wonder people on low carb diet have a harder time getting a shut eye.
If you don’t prefer high carb nightcap, drink milk – it has sleep-inducing tryptophan and sleep-wake cycle regulating melatonin. Turns out, your mom was always right ‘milk before bed’!
6. Carbs prevent weight gain
A study conducted by the researchers at Brigham Young University found that middle-aged women who were on high fiber diet lost weight. On the other hand, women who decreased their fiber intake gained. Majority of the carbohydrates contain fiber that is extremely slow digesting. Fiber increases satiety index of the food you consume, meaning you feel fuller and eat less, and for quite a long period.
The fiber also absorbs water in your stomach and intestine and, the resulting bulk will lie to your brain that you are full. Mind you, once again, we aren’t talking about the processed, sugary, carb foods.
7. Cuts cancer risk
One more reason to swap out the processed carbs for slow carbs: cancer. Oncologists have found that regular consumption of sugary processed carbs and soda can triple prostate cancer risk. On the flip side, eating slow carbs is found to reduce breast cancer risk by 37%.
How does it work? Sugars and the processed carbs keep insulin level always on the high end. And, high insulin levels are suspected to encourage cancer development, not to forget obesity. Research showed that beans, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants and slow-release energy. Sulforaphane containing vegetables like broccoli is believed to reduce the risk of lung and bowel cancer.
8. They will keep you energetic
Carbs are the body’s primary energy source, as they are metabolized to glucose which your body needs for almost everything – breathing, walking, and of course any kind of physical activity. Additionally, glucose is utilized for ATP production as well. Being the energy currency, ATP facilitates vital biochemical actions in the body.
Proteins and fat metabolism also work, but carbs are the key players. Whenever you feel lethargic, have a meal with good carbohydrates like beans, sweet potatoes or whole grains. Plus, it is better to avoid simple carbs that may crash the blood sugar levels.
9. Aids in digestion
The dietary fiber present in natural carb foods is important for optimal intestinal health. These foods help effective waste removal, prevents constipation and reduce bloating. By shortening the duration, the waste stays in the digestive system, fiber also cuts the risk of developing colon cancer. Complete and regular bowel movements will offer great relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
According to nutritionists, you should eat at least 25 – 30 g of fiber for keeping the digestive system clean and healthy.
10. Carbs can help trim your waistline
Sure, you may be worrying about that bulky waistline right now. Here’s the solution: eat more good carbs. Swap refined, sweetened, sugary foods with whole grains, veggies, and fruits.
They may help trim your waistline besides reducing total body fat. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition says that adults who fed 3 servings of whole grains per day had 2.4% less body fat and 3.6% less belly fat than those who fed with 1/4th whole grain serving.
So, why deprive yourself of healthy carbs?
11. Carbs will help burn more fat
Consuming slow release carb foods such as oatmeal or bran cereal prior or post workout may help you blast fat, says a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Compared to refined carbohydrates, the slow-release carbohydrates will not spike up the blood sugar levels.
This, in turn, prevents higher insulin levels in the circulation. Since insulin is important for fat storage, having lower levels may promote fat metabolism.
12. Improve muscle mass
You need carbs – glycogen to be specific, to power your high-intensity workouts. During workouts, the body converts glycogen into ATP molecules to use them as energy. Carb-depleted diet means you may suffer because you will have comparatively less energy to do higher intensity workouts. For a high-intensity session lasting an hour, you may need 30 to 60 g of carbs per hour.
Trying to build muscle? Eat a lot of carbohydrates.
13. Can increase your lifespan
High carb foods stimulate the production of two hormones, insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Among the two, IGF-1 takes part in cellular recovery and rejuvenation. That means it aids in keeping your cellular age well beyond your actual age. Carbohydrate-rich foods also increase the production of growth home, which is another anti-aging hormone.
Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs
Some carbs are extremely good for you. Some carbs do nothing but harm. So, how do you know what is what? Here are some of the many ways.
Good carbs are the ones with,
- Low to moderate in calorie density, meaning you can eat filling amounts without worrying about adding up calories
- Loaded with a variety of nutrients
- Lack of refined sugars and refined grains
- Rich in natural dietary fiber
- Low in sodium and saturated fat
- Zero cholesterol and trans fats
Examples of good carbs:
- Vegetables: All of them.
- Whole fruits: Apples, bananas, and strawberries
- Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, and peas
- Nuts: Almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts
- Seeds: Chia seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, and brown rice
- Tubers: Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Speaking of the Bad carbs, they are the ones that contain,
- High-calorie density
- High in refined sugars and sodium
- Low in essential nutrients and fiber
- Moderate to high cholesterol and trans fats
Examples of bad carbs include,
- Sugary foods: Soda, Coca-cola, Pepsi and all artificially sweetened fruit juices; ice cream; candies and chocolates
- Baked foods: White bread, pastries, cookies and cakes
- Fried foods: French fries, potato chips, deep fried snacks or meat