Low-carb diets. No-carb diets. Good carbs. Bad carbs. Is it any wonder why people are so confused about carbohydrates? Are they inherently evil and fattening, to be shunned permanently? Or are they a crucial source of fuel that our refrigerators and pantries should never be without?

Myth: All carbs are fattening.

Fact: Extra calories of any kind can cause weight gain. You can even gain weight by eating too much lean chicken (although that is certainly more difficult to do than gorging on pretzels). What is true, however, is that certain carbs are more likely to lead to weight gain than others. Simple carbs or refined carbs such as those in cookies, candy, white pasta, and white bread are absorbed quickly and take little time to digest. They don't keep you full and are easy to overeat. High-fiber complex carbs are much better for you. They take longer to digest and don't cause blood-sugar surges and dips. These include foods such as whole grain pastas and cereals, beans, and brown rice.

Myth: A low-carb diet should be followed for life.

Fact: If you're not eating enough carbs, even healthful ones, you're going to compensate by adding proteins and fats. This is the basis of the popular Atkins Diet, which allows liberal amounts of meat, cheese, butter, and other fatty foods. While participants may lose pounds, it is difficult to follow this regimen for long periods. Experts warn that eating this way means taking in too much saturated fat as well as putting a possible strain on the kidneys, which have to work harder to digest protein.

Myth: You should eat plenty of carbs before and after exercise.

Fact: If you're running a marathon or participating in a triathlon, serious endurance events that will deplete your energy stores, it's fine to load up on easily digestible carbs the day before as well as celebrate with a post-race bagel. But too many recreational exercisers undo all of their hard work by overindulging in carbs after their workouts. That innocent-seeming smoothie at the health club juice bar is loaded with carbs in the form of fruit and sugar. What you need is a reasonable amount of carbs and protein together. Try a couple of whole grain crackers with a spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of milk for optimum recovery.

Myth: Carbs cause diabetes.

Fact: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder whose cause is unknown. Type 2 diabetes may have several causes, some of which include being overweight and not exercising. To claim that carbs directly cause either of these diseases is incorrect.




Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Carb Myths Busted." Web. www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=3317

Boston Children's Hospital's Center for Young Women's Health. "Low-Carb Diet Facts." Web. www.youngwomenshealth.org/low_carb.html

American Council on Exercise. "What Should I Eat Before and After My Morning, Afternoon or Evening Workout?" 11 April 2012. www.acefitness.org/blog/2514/what-should-i-eat-before-and-after-my-morning

Mayo Clinic. "Type 1 Diabetes: Causes." Web.

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Type II Diabetes-Overview." Web. http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/002072.htm