A growing trend I am noticing in the fitness world is that “carbs” and “sugar” are being used synonymously with “junk food”

When I speak with clients about their nutrition views, I want to uncover any negative ways of think or obstacles to them achieving optimal health. One myth or belief that limits my clients progress is the belief that “carbs=sugar=junk food”.

It is true, a lot of junk food contains sugar. A lot of junk food also contains carbs. In fact, most junk foods contains mostly fat and sugar. Click here to check out the tricks food companies use to try and disguise sugar.

More importantly, most junk food is low in nutritional value. This mens that it provides your body with very little vitamins, minerals and fibre. To make maters worse, consuming these “empty calories” is crowding or reducing your intake of nutrient dense real foods.

Consuming these types of foods (debatable to call them foods) does provide caloric value but that doesn’t mean much for those of you looking to build health & bodily “wealth”. Bodily wealth is low fat especially around the midsection, strong muscle tone, optimal digestion, libido, energy, focus, a strong immune system and healthy joints. Fuelling your body with nutrient poor foods is like the little pig who build his house of straw. We only have one body to live in so let’s treat it right.

While I don’t advocate counting calories, calories do matter. Physiologically calories are at the top of the hierarchy of most importance. Calories mean life. Nutrients although equate to QUALITY of life.

This does not mean that a nutrient dense diet removes the need for adequate caloric intake.  Adequacy means a consistent (not sporadic) intake of not too high, not too low caloric level to support a healthy metabolism which maintains enough body fat so that the physical demands placed on our bodies are supported. Where we run into the most trouble physically, metabolically and emotionally, in my opinion, is when our diets are too high in calories but low in nutrient density.

My reference to “diet” does not refer to any specific plan. I don’t believe in labels because they really limit us in this world. I simply eat real foods that resonate with my body while occasionally allow for “discretionary calories”.  I want to encourage you to do the same– if that works for you.

It is so important to fuel your body properly or you risk ruining your metabolism. My philosophy is “progress not perfection“. It is about learning through the process, not just the outcome. It is about developing a positive mindset surrounding food because the guilt and negative energy we project into our food may be worse then the foods itself.

So when I reference “diet” I am just talking about how people eat each day. Everyday you provide fuel for your body to live.  No labels, no emotional attachment.

Here are some reasons why carbs are “good”

  • restricting carbs too much for too long will cause your thyroid to plummet. Thyroid is important for keeping your metabolic rate high to help you burn fat
  • eating carbs prevents hypothalamic amenorrhea. In other words carbs ensure women continue to get a period each month. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a starvation response that impairs hormone function. This can result in increased body fat, lower bone density and infertility.
  • Carbs help to maintain testosterone and prevents a spike in cortisol, which helps to prevent muscle loss and thus metabolic decline. An extended low calorie diet increases cortisol.
  • they help to ensure optimal levels of leptin. Leptin is the “satiety hormone” and signals that you are full and prevents overeating. When we restrict calories and carbs leptin levels fall and you end up binging because your brain is starving.

Here are some foods containing carbohydrates:

Quinoa, rice, sweet potato, spinach, kale, leafy greens, squash, oranges, beans/legumes, dates, corn, pea, melons, grapes, banana, yuka, beets, turnip, carrots.

None of the above are “junk foods”. Yes all the above contain carbohydrates but they are also quality foods. Meaning they are nutrient dense.

Here are some foods contain sugar:

Apricot, kiwi, berries, pineapple, oranges, apple, peaches, wine, apple cider, watermelon, honey, maple syrup.

None of the above are “junk foods.” While they all contain sugar they are high in fibre and nutrients.

The point is;

  • Any diet high in processed foods, high in calories yet  low in nutritional value, is not healthy.
  • Any diet high in nutrients but too low in calories, is not healthy.
  • Any diet with little nutrient variety and large swings/binges/significant cravings for junk foods, is not healthy

Combine any of these dietary habits with lack of daily movement, poor stress management, lack of sleep and you have a recipe for metabolism meltdown, malnutrition, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, and other issues.

You need calories, you need carbs, you need nutrients and you need variety.

There is absolutely no need to stress over eating carbs. There is also no  need to fear consuming sugars with discretion. Obviously berries would be a better choice over white table sugar.

There is however, reason to worry about overeating, under-eating, or consuming too low of nutrients.

The real issue, the real place we need to be directing our concerns is not whole foods but the diet culture as a whole.  Magazines, television, online social media that confuse the facts, sets unrealistic expectations and promotes negative self image. Not to mention this industry is loaded with photoshop.

You don’t need to eliminate an entire macronutrient category or have anything special to have  a healthy, balanced diet. What you first need is factual information and convenient strategies that work faster and make health simpler again. We also need common sense that allows for responsibility around nutrition and safeguards against dramatic beliefs and extreme diets.

This is the first step I take with my clients. Then it is about embracing every imperfect step you take towards a healthier, happier you. It is all about being a better version of ourselves every single day.

What do you think? Comment below. Do you completely avoid carbs? Any other dietary myths/truths you’d like to discuss?