Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rep in the modern western world, but they are actually extremely important! They provide fuel that the body needs for energy. Our bodies can also convert carbohydrates to glucose, which is vital to our brain.
The building blocks of carbohydrates are simple sugars (monosaccharides). Most cells can only use a few simple sugars, and glucose is the main simple sugar that is needed for our bodies to thrive.
Glucose is broken down within cells and this is called glycolysis. This process is known as anaerobic respiration since it does not need oxygen to take place. When glycolysis breaks down the glucose it makes ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is used for energy. When our bodies have used up all of the ATP needed the rest of the glucose is then stored as glycogen or converted to fat.
Did you catch that? ...the rest of the glucose is then stored as glycogen or converted to fat. This means that it is important to know just the right amount of carbohydrates to consume. However, avoiding carbohydrates or eating the wrong types will negatively the way our brain and our metabolism works.
I know this can all be very confusing because the food industry may focus on one healthy ingredient and advertise as if that is your main benefit of their product. One healthy in a load of junk is still junk. Many times the food industry also hires research companies to perform studies that are skewed to put their product(s) in a positive light.
This is why I became a certified nutritionist. I wanted to know (once and for all) what was and wasn't true. This is also why during my certification course I completely changed the way I was eating.... and mind you I thought I was eating healthy!
To keep it simple and know without a shadow of a doubt that you are eating healthy then stick with plant based foods. Not only will you then be eating to nourish your body, but you will also be eating to cleanse your body! Examples of healthy carbs include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes & whole grains. These foods provide many benefits to the organs in your body and are important for gut health.
Unfortunately, refined carbs & added sugar included in sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, and candy & dessert items are associated with multiple health problems. They also cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to a crash that triggers hunger and cravings for more. Refined carbohydrate foods lack essential nutrients that your body needs to perform effectively.
Whole food sources of carbohydrates are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and don't cause the same spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Hundreds of studies on high-fiber carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains show that eating them is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of disease.
As far as knowing how much to eat, listen to your body! Once you go cold turkey off of the addictive (bad) carbs it becomes easier to interpret the signals that your body is sending you. Once you start to feel full (or maybe even a little before) then set the food aside for later. When I don't finish a meal I like to establish a time to come back to the meal to finish it. Usually that time is 2-3 hours out, or maybe the next day if you did overeat initially.
You can also track your consumption HERE. This is a great way to see if you are getting the right amount of nutrients each day!