Carbs, carbs, carbs. We love carbs. It seems like it is the biggest taboo these days to reach for that dinner roll, pour yourself a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios or God forbid…eat a handful of Triscuits! But the truth is, carbohydrates are necessary for a balanced diet, energy, brain health, a good mood, and so many other benefits. The diet crazes that have us tossing out our bread baskets and passing up the granola in our yogurt parfaits have become increasingly popular, and have left a number of confused dieters without a clear understanding of what is actually healthy.
The Atkins diet is a familiar trend for many. It touts a high-fat, low-carbohydrate way of living that is supposed to leave you lean and energized. While this type of diet may have its benefits, never underestimate the power of a good carb. In fact, omitting carbohydrates from your diet altogether can have grave impacts that may damage your mind and body.
Many avoid bread, crackers, cereal, pretzels, chips, tortillas, and oatmeal as if one sinful bite could make them inflate like Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka’s tale. However, eliminating the nutrient completely can cause a host of unpleasant mental and physical side effects, as you’re robbing your body of essential building blocks needed for a number of functions.
Happy Carbs: You see, carbohydrates may actually produce serotonin – the “feel-good” brain chemical that helps to keep depression and anxiety at bay. Cutting them from your diet may leave you feeling down, lethargic and unmotivated.
Filling Carbs: If you’re afraid that carbs will make you blow up like a balloon, know that many healthy carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole grains and leafy green vegetables contain fiber, which actually helps you manage a healthy weight. Without this key component in your diet, you might find yourself over-loading on other unhealthy foods in order to feel satiated.
I Heart Carbs: Carbohydrates also help to keep your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels down and promote heart health. Heart-healthy foods like oatmeal, oat bran and barley contain soluble fiber, which lowers LDL cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
The bottom line is that you need healthy carbohydrates to function properly. As you may know, one of my favorite late-night snacks is cereal, so I highly recommend snacking on a bowl of Fiber One cereal splashed with nonfat milk for a fiber-filled dish. You can even top it with a handful of raisins or sliced bananas for added flavor and texture.