1. They keep you sane.
Research has found that carbohydrates boost production of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. In a year-long study, people on a high-carb, low-fat diet experienced much less anger, depression, and anxiety than those on a very low-carb diet. If you ever tried Atkins back in the day, you're probably not surprised to hear that last part.
2. They can help you lose weight.
No, really. Eating slow-release carbohydrates (think complex carbs like oats) three hours before a workout can boost fat-burning, according to a Journal of Nutrition study. This type of carb can help to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels steady, avoiding the kind of spikes that comes from simple carbs like white bread. Steady insulin = less fat storage.
3. They keep you sharp.
If your low-carb diet is making you fuzzy-headed, it's probably not your imagination. One study, which tracked overweight women following a low-carb diet, found that they performed worse on several types of memory test after a week on the diet. Meanwhile, study participants who followed a low-calorie diet with balanced amounts of carbs, protein, and fat didn't show any signs of impaired memory.
4. They're good for your heart.
Eating whole-grain carbohydrates can lower your levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), while boosting levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind). There's a similar benefit from eating plenty of soluble fiber, which is found in carb-packed foods like oatmeal.
5. They're the best workout fuel.
The established wisdom really is true in this case—carbs provide your body with a more readily available form of fuel than proteins or fats. They're basically fast-burning energy, which can be bad news if you overdo them in everyday life, but is great news when you consume them before an intense workout. Several studies over the years have linked carbohydrates stores in the muscles to improved athletic performance, while more recent studies have shown that people on low-carb diets are more likely to suffer fatigue and light-headedness during a workout.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.za. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.