Carbs, carbs, carbs! Which ones do we eat? How much should we have? Will they make me gain weight?

Carbohydrates have been the subject of great debate for the better half of a century, from the well-known Atkins, Zone and keto diets to even older and more obscure ones, such as the Air Force Diet and the Drinking Man’s Diet from the ’60s.

Everywhere we look, there seems to be someone saying something different. So what do we do? Do we eat carbs or not? Well, let’s take a closer look at what exactly carbohydrates are, first.

Carbohydrates are one of your body’s primary source of energy. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple vs complex.

Simple carbs are broken down in your body almost immediately, which can sometimes result in a quick spike of energy followed by a crash. Some simple carbs have also been shown to increase blood triglyceride levels, bad cholesterol and insulin resistance. Examples of these kinds simple carbs would be cake, candy, syrups, soft drinks. However, some simple carbs can be good for you, as part of a balanced eating pattern, such as fruits, milk and other milk products. These contain daily recommended vitamins and minerals.

Most carbohydrate intake should be consumed from complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest, which means their TEF (thermo effect of food) is higher. This means that your body burns calories breaking these foods down. Yes, you can burn calories by eating! Say what?

Complex carbohydrates have been shown to help control insulin response, energy levels and body composition. They have necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, and can increase satiety (feeling of fullness), which can help control overall calorie consumption. Examples of complex carbohydrates are: oats (not the instant variety), quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat grains and sweet potatoes.

So, what’s the skinny? What does this all mean for you?

Any consistent over-indulgence of any macronutrient is going to possibly cause weight gain. For right now, stick to the basics. The daily minimum recommendation for carbohydrate intake is 130g per day (National Institute of Health, 2018). Choose foods from the Smart Carbs list below and minimize your intake of simple carbohydrates, such as candy, cake and other highly processed foods.

Smart Carbohydrates:

• Starches — potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, parsnips, carrots, corn.

• Fruits — apricots, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, grapes, mangos, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, rhubarb, watermelon.

• Citrus fruits — clementines, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats, oranges, nectarines, satsumas, tangerines.

• Berries — açai berries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, fresh blackcurrants, fresh cranberries, raspberries, strawberries.

• Grains and legumes — amaranth, barley, brown or wild rice, buckwheat, kamut, millet, oats/steel cut oats, quinoa, spelt, sprouted grains, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta (Coach Catalyst, 2015).

If you are interested in learning more about your specific individual needs, we can set you up with a consult with one of our three nutritionists.

Erik Schreiber owns and operates CustomFit360 LLC in Ocean View. He is a metabolic conditioning coach, lifestyle and weight-management specialist, and certified nutrition specialist. CustomFit360 LLC has three nutritionists on staff and has a nutrition program called 360 Nutrition & Weight Management. Schreiber can be reached by email at or by phone at (703) 626-3157.