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Carbs: Why do people think they’re bad?

carbs, carbs are not bad

Carbohydrates. What comes to your mind when you read that? This nutrient receives an undeservedly negative reputation through no fault of its own. They’re so misunderstood.

Nearly 100 percent of carbs break down to glucose in the body. That’s a good thing because glucose gives us energy.  All macronutrients—carbs, fats, proteins—give us energy because they have calories. Carbs though are very efficient at providing fuel—glucose, needed by every cell.  And it’s the preferred energy source for our brain, central nervous system, and red blood cells.


carbs are not badA major problem? Overconsumption. But ANY macronutrient can be overconsumed. (Alcohol as well, although it’s obviously a nonnutrient.)

Blame it on the carb—it’s easy to because of the abundance in our food supply. Back in the 80s—the low-fat era—there was a push to get fat out of the diet. However if something is removed, something has to replace it, right? As fat intake went down in food products, carb intake—especially refined carbohydrates and sugar went up.

Fat serves a purpose, a useful purpose! It provides flavor, texture, mouthfeel, etc.

What happened with salad dressing? Low fat and fat-free salad dressings appeared on store shelves. What replaced the fat? Most often sugar or other non-nutritive sweeteners.

Reduced fat peanut butter. Take out some fat? Replace it with sugar.

Some of the worst culprits were pastries and sweets. People were buying reduced fat, low fat, fat-free versions of foods like crazy. Remember SnackWell’s in the green package? Introduced in 1992 every type of cookie or sweet appeared to come out of nowhere branded fat free from SnackWell’s. However…

Fat free does not mean calorie free

Fat free does not mean calorie free. Or sugar-free.

Interestingly fat intake declined in food products back in the low fat era, but according to USDA Food Consumption data, overall fat intake increased since 1970 as have sugar and flour/cereal products. On a positive note, from its peak in 1999, sugar declined (Source: ERS USDA Food consumption and nutrient intakes).

But blame it on the carbohydrate. Did people reduce fat intake and increase carb intake from fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other nutrient-rich carbs? No.

There’s a multitude of reasons waistlines have increased over the years. Refined carbs and sugars certainly didn’t help but neither did added fats and oils.

In my next few posts I’ll discuss sources of carbohydrates, the difference between simple and complex carbs, why some carbs have more calories, the importance of fiber, and how our body regulates blood glucose. Videos are posted of each if you’re ready to learn more now!


Photo credits: and

Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
@JenniferNeily Twitter | @NeilyonNutrition Instagram

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3 Responses to Carbs: Why do people think they’re bad?

  • I find you need more research on the subject. You are not factual. I have totally cut out carbs, sugar of all kinds, starch, root veggies, alcohol, sodas of any kind and gluten. I am healthier, my A1C is in normal levels as well as my BP and other blood levels. Carbs are totally bad for you. Your body should use the fat stored for energy not glucose. Glucose not used turns to FAT.. My liver and pancreas are both healthier than they have been in years. Perhaps, you should read up on Ketogentics. Carbs become fat storage and difficult to burn off unless you work out at max levels. Carbs were introduce and pushed into society by scientist to reduce fertility in 1950-60’s.

    • Hi Stacy, thanks for your comment. I’m pleased the ketogenic diet worked for you. Yes, I am very familiar with it. Therapeutic use of the ketogenic diet dates to the early 20th century for controlling seizures in people with epilepsy. There are theories, however, it is still unclear how it helps manage seizures.

      When severely limiting intake of carbohydrates, the body relies on fat for fuel by way of ketones and enters a state of ketosis. Ketosis suppresses appetite helping with weight loss. People are using the keto diet for weight loss. However, it is a diet – clear and simple. Keto is restriction and it’s a way of eating I just cannot support for most people I work with.

      Is it sustainable? It’s a diet. Some people do okay with the limitations, others not so well. In one meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials, there was a nearly 40 percent dropout rate.

      The information I provide is not to stop my readers from doing what works for them. I provide unbiased relevant health and nutrition information so that people make educated decisions. I’m pleased you found a way that is working for you – appreciate your thoughts!

  • ‘ditch dieting forever’

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