4 Myths About Carbs

By:Lydia Smith


OK, so you hear a lot about carbohydrates, but what is the truth among the myths?


Myth # 1: All carbs are equal = FALSE

Carbohydrate quality is important. There are nutrient deficient sources of carbs and nutrient rich sources of carbs. You’re looking for the nutrient rich sources of carbs, including those that are low GI such as vegetables and whole grains, because they will give you a more satisfied feeling and give you longer lasting energy without necessarily costing more calories. Nutrient deficient carbs, including high GI foods such as white bread and white rice, will give you only short-lasting energy, and you will need to eat more and consume more calories to keep going during the day.

If you love carb-rich potatoes, go for sweet potatoes, which are low GI. If you eat a lot of white rice and hate brown rice, choose basmati because it’s also low GI. Alternatively, you can mix some wild rice in with your white rice, which gives it a yummy, nutty texture.

Below are some examples of good carbohydrates and carbs you should avoid:

Good carbs (Low GI)

·        whole grain pasta, bread, cereals

·        fresh fruit

·        legumes and beans

·        nuts and seeds

Not so good carbs (High GI)

·        sweets like candy

·        white potatoes

·        baked goods

·        most cereals, white bread and white pasta

·        soft drinks (or soda)

·        (pretty much any white or highly processed food)

Myth # 2: Carbs make you fat = FALSE

Including carbs in your diet will not make you fat. Fat accumulates if you consume more calories in a day than you burn. Even if all you eat is vegetables, you will still put on weight if you consume more than you need because your body converts any leftover calories to storage in the form of fat.

On the other hand, everybody needs good, balanced nutrition. If all you eat is carbs, your body will cry out for other nutrients. So how many carbs should you be eating? Use the following steps (in the table below) to find out how much is right for your body.

Myth # 3: When on a diet it is good to cut out carbs completely for a few days = FALSE

Carbs are essential as they are the body’s main source of fuel, especially for the brain. Cut these out and you’re most likely going to get massive headaches, feel very tired, and have no energy to think straight. Not healthy!

As an alternate to cutting out carbs completely, it is a better idea to only cut out empty (nutrient deficient) carbs and replace them with something more substantial. This will fill you up and keep you going for longer.

Carbs are essential as they are the body’s main source of fuel, especially for the brain. Cut these out and you’re most likely going to get massive headaches, feel very tired, and have no energy to think straight. Not healthy!

Myth # 4: Carbs must be mixed with vegetarian protein sources to make it a complete protein = FALSE

While this is a little bit true it is a myth that you have to eat the two together at the same time of day. To get a complete protein you can eat one part in the morning and the other later on in the day; for example, you can have your oats for breakfast and then a bean salad for lunch. Your body still gets a complete protein!

On the other hand, it is often more convenient to just have them together so that you don’t forget. Some examples of vegetarian complete-protein sources are: rice with a tofu stir-fry, wholemeal bread sandwich with a lentil patty, and whole wheat pasta with a chickpea sauce.

Here is the table to figure out how many carbs you can have

a) First, work out your BMR (Basal metabolic Rate):

655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in yrs)

E.g. Deborah, who is 70kg, 165 cm tall and 17 yrs old would have an equation looking like this: 

655 + (9.6 x 70) + (1.8 x 165) – (4.7 x 17)

= 655 + 672 + 297 - 79.9

= 1544 calories per day

Alternatively, you can use an online calculator to find out your BMR.

b)        Next, use the Harris Benedict Equation to calculate your daily calorie needs. Simply multiply your BMR by one of the following factors:

•          If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2

•          If you are lightly active (light exercise/sport 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375

•          If you are moderately active (moderate exercise sports 3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55

•          If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725

•          If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports plus physical job): BMR x 1.9

E.g. Deborah, who is moderately active, would multiply 1544 by 1.55 to get 2393. This is approximately how many calories Deborah should eat each day.

c)         Then, using a healthy ratio of carbohydrates to fats and protein such as 40:25:35 work out how many calories from each macronutrient (carbs, fats, protein) you need.

E.g. Deborah’s carbohydrate ratio would be 40% of 2393 = 957.2 calories from carbs.

d)        Divide this number by 4 (because carbohydrates give 4 calories per gram) to get an idea of how many grams per day you should be eating. And there you have it!

E.g. Deborah should be eating about 240 grams of carbohydrate per day.

e)        Finally, reading the labels on your food will tell you how many grams of carbohydrate are in each serving.