It's unfortunate how we treat the poor carbohydrate. Mistakenly associated with weight gain and empty calories, carbs are actually an essential part of a balanced diet -- especially if you want to do any sort of physical activity -- and often a tasty one, at that.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adults get about 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbs. Of course, not all carbs are created equal. Those that come from refined sugars and flours may only cause more troublesome cravings. But carbs from whole grains or veggies don't result in the same dramatic blood sugar spike, LiveScience reported.
So skip the sugary cereals and the second spaghetti helping, but get your fill of squash, beans, fruit, quinoa, oatmeal and so much more. Don't believe us? Here are a few good reasons you'll want to do just that.
1. You have bad breath.
The aim of low-carb diets, of course, is to burn the body’s stores of fat for energy instead of carbs, although most experts agree this does not lead to long-term weight loss. When the body burns fat, it does so by a process called ketosis, which releases chemicals called ketones. Ketones, unfortunately, have a less than pleasant smell, and are often released through the breath. The bad news for low-carb dieters is this isn't an oral hygiene issue, so “all the brushing, flossing, and scraping of the tongue that you can do is not possibly enough to overcome this,” Kenneth Burrell, DDS told WebMD.
2. Your workouts are slipping.
When physically active people don't get enough carbs, the body can resort to using protein for necessary muscle function, including muscle building, which is why carbs are often called "protein sparing". Replenishing the body after workouts with the carbs burned during the workout can therefore speed recovery, better preparing you for tomorrow's routine.
3. You feel a little fuzzy.
Just like the body, the brain also relies on carbs, broken down into glucose, for energy. And when the brain doesn't get the glucose it needs, it might not work to the best of its ability. A small 2008 study found that women on a low-carb diet scored worse on a series of memory tests than women on a low-calorie but nutrient-balanced diet. When the low-carb women started eating carbs again? Their brains quickly bounced back to normal.
4. You're cranky.
People following a low-carb plan consistently report feeling more irritable, stressed and fatigued, even when their diet results in weight loss. One possible cause may be that carbs are essential to the body's production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that's responsible for lifting your spirits, U.S. News reported. But a low-carb plan, as compared to a low-fat plan, may also just feel like less fun, according to a 2009 study. The research followed 106 obese and overweight people on either a low-carb or low-fat diet for an entire year. While people from both groups who stuck to their diets lost weight, the low-carb dieters reported a worsening of their moods over time, and the moods of the low-fat dieters improved, Health.com reported. Researchers surmised that being told you can't eat as much food as you want when you're eating smaller portions of those calorie-dense foods higher in fat and protein may just put a damper on the mood.
5. You're irregular.
"One of the primary places where you are going to see metabolic changes on any kind of diet is in your gastrointestinal tract," Dr. Stephen Sondike, M.D., of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin told WebMD. Most likely, those changes will manifest in the form of constipation, likely due to the fiber low-carb dieters miss out on when they cut back on grains. Eating more high-fiber vegetables can help.
How do you make sure you get a healthy daily dose of carbs? Let us know in the comments below.