Setting the Record Straight on Carbohydrates Part 1: Debunking Carb Myths

Setting the Record Straight on Carbohydrates Part 1: Debunking Carb Myths

It’s time to set the record straight on carbohydrates (carbs). Just how fat was the nutrition demon in the 90s, carbs are the current macronutrient taking the blame for all our health woes. The truth is that carbohydrates are healthy and essential, but like everything in nutrition, quality and context matter.

If you think you need to follow a carbohydrate-restricted diet for fat loss and hormone balance, keep reading. Today’s article will tackle some of the common carbohydrate myths and facts and answer a ton of Scott’s Protein Ball’s customer questions about carbohydrate foods, including: 

  • What are carbohydrates?
  • What do carbohydrates do?
  • Are all carbs the same?
  • What are complex carbohydrates?
  • What is a processed carbohydrate?
  • What are healthy carbohydrates?
  • Are carbohydrates good for you? 

Carbohydrate Quality Matters

Plants make carbohydrates through photosynthesis that turns sunlight into sugar molecules. Carbohydrates refer to these sugars themselves and the foods that contain them that provide our bodies with energy. 

The quality of carbohydrates you eat impacts the body’s blood sugar and metabolic response to the food or meal. Fiber-rich carbs like fruits and vegetables decrease the risk of disease and promote longevity. In other words, a jelly bean is different from a black bean.

Types of Carbohydrates

You’ll find three main types of carbohydrates in food: sugar, starch, and fiber.


Sugars naturally occur in fruits and vegetables as sucrose, a two-sugar molecule of glucose and fructose. These sugars absorb into the body.


Starches are large molecules with hundreds of glucose molecules attached. They break down into glucose via digestion and raise blood sugar. 


Fiber refers to carbohydrates the body can’t break down in the digestive system. They aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream but feed beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

Simple Carbohydrates vs. Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates break down more slowly with digestion and cause a more gradual blood sugar rise, compared to simple carbohydrates that digest very quickly and can spike blood sugar levels.

Processed Carbohydrates vs. Whole Foods

Another way to think of simple vs. complex carbs is processed vs. whole foods. Processed carbohydrates are stripped of fiber and nutrients, leaving only the carbs behind. They digest quickly and can spike blood sugar. Examples of carbohydrates that are processed include table sugar and white flour. 

Whole food carbohydrates are unprocessed and contain fiber for slower digestion and slower release into the bloodstream. They also contain nutrients to support carbohydrate metabolism. Types of carbohydrates in the whole food category include fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, starchy root vegetables and whole grains.

Fat Loss and Carbohydrate Consumption Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Diet culture will make you think carbohydrate restriction is necessary as a fat loss diet. However, too much restriction is not sustainable and can impact hormonal systems. Carbohydrates and fat loss can go together.

At the end of the day, fat loss is about caloric restriction, not carbohydrate restriction nor any macronutrient for that matter. When you limit calories coming in from any macronutrient or food group you will inevitably decrease caloric intake.  It’s easy to be confused by the messaging on social media and unfortunately this confusion has grave health impacts for your health and our planet. 

Burning Carbohydrates vs. Protein for Energy

Carbohydrates are the cells’ preferred fuel, and the body stores some as glycogen to provide blood sugar between meals and overnight. When the glycogen stores run low, cells rely on fat and protein for fuel.

Maintaining Lean Muscle Mass and Increasing Metabolism

Including adequate carbohydrates in the diet helps spare muscle breakdown to provide fuel for cells. Carbs can spark metabolism as cells use the incoming carbs for immediate energy.

Carbohydrates Are Healthy and Essential 

One of the biggest myths surrounding carbohydrates is that they aren’t essential. Functions of carbohydrates include:

  • Energy production
  • Stored energy (as glycogen)
  • Preserve lean body mass
  • Fiber improves digestive health
  • Fiber improves metabolic health and decreases the risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Hormone Function (Ex: thyroid function requires enough insulin to work properly)
  • Mental health and neurotransmitter function

Again, Quality Matters 

You’ll find the most benefit from whole, unprocessed, complex. Include these carbohydrates for fat loss, in a hormone balancing diet, and for overall health.

Unprocessed Whole Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, and Beans

Plant foods, in their least processed state, are the best sources to include in the diet. Some tips:

  • Fill half your dinner plate with veggies
  • Swap refined flour for whole grains like quinoa, oats, brown rice or whole grain breads
  • Snack on whole carbs like fiber-rich chia seeds, cashews (yes! nuts are a healthy source of carbohydrate, especially cashews), fresh fruits and of course Scott’s Protein Balls! 

Key Sources of Fiber and Fuel

Whole-food sources of carbohydrates provide fuel and fiber, a winning combo!

Carbohydrates’ Role in Hormonal Balances 

A low-carb diet can impact hormone levels, including thyroid, adrenal and sex hormones. Including adequate whole carbohydrates in the diet promotes hormone balance. 

The Effects of Glucose Deficits - Cortisol and Blood Sugar Balance

A low carbohydrate diet when constructed properly under the care of a registered dietitian can play a therapeutic role in managing specific conditions. However, when not well-planned, under-consuming carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar dips which promote stress and cause a rise in the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol plays a crucial role in blood sugar balance by helping to increase blood sugar when it drops too low. Excess cortisol production in response to glucose deficits can signal fat storage. What this means is there is a potential for an improperly planned low-carb diet to cause weight gain. 

Instead of choosing an extreme diet and demonizing carbohydrates, include quality carbs for all their benefits while minimizing processed carbohydrates. A great way to start is with Scott’s Protein Balls. You can enjoy them as a healthy snack or dessert as part of a healthy eating or healthy weight management plan!

  • Lori Levine is an eternal optimist and after undergoing breast cancer treatment, she learned she had to upgrade her snacks to upgrade her health. She and her husband Scott became accidental entrepreneurs after he lovingly created quality protein balls made from tasty, easily recognizable ingredients that are as convenient as they are healthy and delicious! Even better? 1% of all sales are donated to Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) to help support breast cancer research. #betheend.