If you're into nutrition, weight loss, or healthy eating, you've probably seen contradictory information about carbs. Popular diets like the keto and Atkins diets recommend avoiding carbs. Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta were at the base of the USDA's food pyramid for years.
Carbohydrates are the brain and muscle's main fuel, says PCRM. VerywellFit says sugar molecules are the body's primary energy source. "Carbs are needed for optimal body function."a
Sugar, starches, and fibre are carbs. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibre is an essential part of a healthy diet. Dietary fibre is best known for preventing or relieving constipation, but it also helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
A diet rich in the right carbs can lower chronic disease risk. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: "Studies show that those who eat the most carbohydrates—especially those in whole, natural foods like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—have a lower risk for heart disease [and] type 2 diabetes."
Harvard School of Public Health: "Eating carbohydrates from healthy foods is more important than following a strict diet limiting or counting carbs." The HSPH calls "whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans" healthy sources of carbohydrates.
Carbs "get a bad rap" as weight gain drivers, says the Mayo Clinic. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help control weight, according to research. High-fiber foods help you feel full on fewer calories, which aids in weight control. Contrary to low-carb diets, few studies show a high-carb diet causes weight gain or obesity.
Carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats make up a balanced diet. Healthline recommends eating half fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter whole grains and starches. Whole-grain products (including the hull) "add vitamins, minerals, fibre, and texture to a dish."