“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal” – Albert Camus

I am here to defend carbs. You’re welcome. (CHO means carbs for those who don’t already know that).

First of all: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Recommended Daily Intakes (RDI), and Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) are created for a reason. No one just pulls this stuff out of thin air. As I have mentioned several times before, the RDA for adults is at the very least: 130 grams per day. The RDA is 45-65% of your overall caloric intake. So let’s say you’re eating 2000 calories (for the sake of math because this doesn’t need to be complicated, okay). That is 900-1300 calories from CHO which translates to around 225-325 grams due to CHO being 4 calories per gram. Do you have to be on the extremely high side of this range? No, but you can be if you want.

So why do we need at least 130 grams of CHO? Well, in case you didn’t know, glucose is essential to several tissues in the central nervous system (aka the CNS) as well as red blood cells. Included in these tissues is the brain, this is because the brain contains neurons and these have a very high demand for energy. The demand is so high, that they constantly require delivery of glucose from the blood. And now I want you to think about this: your brain utilizes about 20% of your energy derived from glucose, but is about 2% of your total body weight. This makes it the absolute queen of glucose consumption.

And why does it need so much glucose? It helps to provide fuel for optimal brain function, maintains cellular health of neurons, and generates neurotransmitters. In fact, if pathways of glucose delivery are somehow cut off or disrupted it can lead to brain diseases such as neuroglycopenia (a disease caused by long term hypoglycemia during childhood development) and Alzheimer’s disease (which has been shown in recent studies to be associated with a decrease in cerebral glucose activity). Further studies have shown that disrupted/incorrectly regulated glucose metabolism in both obese individuals and those with type II diabetes is linked to both Alzheimer’s AND impaired brain function. These are tidbits of a bigger picture, this could be delved into even further. However, 1: I want this to be a quick/easy read and 2: I just really want y’all to understand that carbs are indeed important. Do not deprive yourself.

So yes, it IS essential that you eat carbohydrates.

For further reading:

  1. Mergenthaler P, Lindauer U, Dienel GA, Meisel A. Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function. Trends in neurosciences. 2013;36(10):587-597. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2013.07.001.
  2. Gropper, Sareen. Advanced Nutrition & Human Metabolism. 5th Ed. 2013.