I met a woman the other day who told me she just doesn’t eat carbs. She said if she eats them she just gains weight (I’ll add that she is overweight already). I asked her what her biggest weakness was when it comes to food, and she replied: “Snacking at night.” Well, guess what she snacks on? Popcorn, pretzels, crackers and snacks like that. Which, of course, are all carbs!

Now, I sensed that her understanding of food categories might be a little confused. I asked her if she knew what a carbohydrate was, and she replied “Yes! Bread, potatoes, pasta, stuff like that.”

She was right … but didn’t realize her late-night snacks were also the dreaded carbs. This misconception is very common: most everyone replies with similar answers when I ask the question: “Do you know what a carbohydrate is?”

The fact is, most people really don’t know what a carbohydrate is, but yet almost everyone that steps in my office explains to me how they don’t eat them.

Here is a short definition of carbohydrates straight from wikipedia.org:

“Carbohydrates (from ‘hydrates of carbon’) or saccharides (from the Greek word for sugar) are simple organic compounds that are aldehydes or ketones with many hydroxyl groups added, usually one on each carbon atom that is not part of the aldehyde or ketone functional group. Carbohydrates are the most abundant of the four major classes of biomolecules, which also include proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. They fill numerous roles in living things, such as the storage and transport of energy (starch, glycogen) and structural components (cellulose in plants, chitin in animals). Additionally, carbohydrates and their derivatives play major roles in the working process of the immune system, fertilization, pathogenesis, blood clotting, and development.”

The definition is a bit scientific, but in layman’s terms, the bottom line is: Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient. There are actually six essential nutrients our bodies need in order to be healthy. These include: carbohydrates, protein, fat, water, vitamins and minerals. Essential means our bodies need these to survive. If you look at the definition above, you can see that carbohydrates are important for our brain function, immune system, energy level … need I say more?

The other problem with “cutting out carbs” is that you can pretty much find carbohydrates in everything you eat, even protein. So, what are you going to do now? How are you going to eat right, and how will you know what to eat? Did you really think I would talk about something and not offer any solution? I didn’t think so. Here is what you really need to know about carbohydrates.

In my opinion, when it comes to carbs there are the good, the bad and the ugly. All “good” ones (with exceptions if you are allergic to them) are anything that grows naturally without having to be treated by man, including potatoes, rice, oats, all vegetables and all fruits.

The “bad” ones include (but are not limited to): enriched breads, enriched pastas, cookies, cakes and pastries.

The “ugly” ones include: anything fried, candy bars, licorice and all enriched sugar sweets.

So the moral of this story is: Stay away from all sugary sweet foods and stick to the real natural stuff. Your body does not want you to give up carbs completely. If you slip a little, or have a treat once in a while, it’s not going to make you fat. Trust me. And as always, remember … you’re worth it!