Low-carb, no-carb, or high-carb diet—which one should you follow? Well, there are so many misconceptions about carbs and their contribution to weight loss, weight maintenance, and weight gain. Those diets have no middle ground (and limited flexibility), so I want to clarify the basics and the importance of carbs in our diet.

Carbohydrates are part of the three macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbs. We need all three to varying degrees, depending on where we are emotionally, physically, and psychologically in our lives.

There are two groups of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include monosaccharides and disaccharides, while complex carbohydrates include oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.





Carbohydrate Digestibility

Digestion of starch begins in the mouth with the enzyme amylase breaking down the long chains of molecules. The food reaches the stomach, and digestion of the starch comes to a halt. Once the food reaches the small intestine, the pancreatic enzymes start their work, breaking the long chains of starch molecules down to single molecules of glucose, fructose, and galactose for absorption. Glucose goes to the liver, where it is then distributed for energy. This may include storage in fat cells, using it for immediate energy, or storing it as glycogen for later use.

Your body does not digest fiber. Instead, it is broken down by bacterial enzymes in your large intestine. This is a key component in digestive health as it helps reduce cholesterol, relieve constipation, and protect against heart disease.

Recommended Daily Intake of Carbs

Interestingly, we do not need any carbs! We can survive on other sources of energy derived from fatty acids and amino acids. When we do not replenish depleted glycogen stores with carbs, our body will break down body proteins to make glucose for the brain and other cells. When we do not replenish depleted glycogen stores with carbs, our body can also use fatty acids to make glucose.

If there is an abundance of carbs, our body will not break down proteins, nor will it pull from fat reserves for energy. When carbs are in abundance, fat is conserved or created. Fat reserves are created when there is an excess amount of carbs because our liver can only store the carbs as glycogen up to a limited amount, and then the rest will be stored as fat. We have an unlimited storage system for fat reserves, so the more carbs we eat in excess, our body will convert this excess into fat.

There is a happy medium to carb intake. It depends on activity level, genetics, age, stress level, disease state, and gender. We can work together to determine your optimal carb intake.