1. Because all carbs are NOT created equal
This is very important to remember. Refined carbohydrates are those found in cookies, cakes, sugar, and "white" foods (white bread, pasta, flour, and rice). These carbohydrates are composed of simple sugars which are broken down, digested, and absorbed very quickly by the body. They also contain little or no fiber.
This can wreak havoc with blood sugar levels, resulting in sugar cravings, energy slumps, and weight gain. Refined carbs are what we call "empty calories"—they provide us with energy, but not much else in terms of nutrition. Never say never (food is about enjoyment too, after all), but these are best kept as "sometimes" foods.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, pack in more nutrients than simple carbohydrates, are higher in fiber, and are digested and absorbed by the body more slowly, making them a fantastic source of sustained energy. This also makes them more filling, and therefore a good option for weight control. Complex carbohydrates include wholegrains, legumes, beans, nuts, fruit, and vegetables.
2. Because vegetables are carbs
If you ever read a diet book that advises you to limit your consumption of vegetables as part of the plan—step away from the book! No one ever put on weight from eating too many vegetables. But more importantly than that, vegetables are packed with health-boosting vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. If you're not eating enough, you'll be low in energy, more likely to get sick, and notice a deterioration in your hair, skin, and nails. And that's just in the short-term. You should in fact be aiming to fill at least half your plate at every mealtime with vegetables, with as much colour and variety as you can manage!
3. They support a happy tummy
We keep going on about fiber, and one of the reasons why is because of its important role in digestive health. Not only does fiber keep things moving, it also provides a food source for the "good" bacteria in our gut. These good bacteria ensure that we properly absorb nutrients from our food; they support our body's ability to detoxify, regulate appetite, boost our immunity; and can even effect our mood. The polyphenols found in certain carbohydrate-based plant foods such as berries, flaxseeds, and olives support these good bacteria even further. Oh and did I mention dark chocolate and red wine are rich in polyphenols, too?!
4. They can help us sleep (and make us happy!)
If you're a bad sleeper, a low-carbohydrate diet could actually be making the situation so much worse. Why? Because carbohydrates are required for the uptake of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in foods such as nuts, seeds, yogurt, and turkey, and is converted in the brain to the sleep-inducing substances serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is also the "feel good" chemical in our brain, and it promotes feelings of happiness and satisfaction. For this reason, a good intake of complex carbs is important for regulating mood, with some studies suggesting that there could be a link between low carb intake and depression. That's why they make you feel so good!
5. They're brain food
Our brain relies on carbs, broken down into glucose, for fuel. And if the brain isn't getting enough glucose, our ability to concentrate, make decisions, and recall information can be affected. In a small 2008 study, 19 women were placed either on a calorie restricted low-carb diet or a calorie restricted high-carb diet for 28 days. Those on the low-carb diet scored worse on a series of memory tests, suggesting that a low carb intake may have some impact on our short term memory.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.