1. They keep you sane
Research has found that carbohydrates boost production of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin. In a year-long study by the Archive of Internal Medicine, 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, you're probably not surprised to hear that.
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 come from simple carbs like white bread. Steady insulin means less fat storage.
3. They keep you sharp
If your low-carb diet is making you fuzzy-headed, it is 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, the study participants who followed a low-calorie diet with balanced amounts of carbs, protein and fat did not show any signs of impaired memory.
4. They're good for your heart
Eating whole-grain carbohydrates can lower your levels of (bad) LDL cholesterol, while boosting levels of (good) HDL cholesterol. There is a similar benefit from eating plenty of soluble fibre, 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 unhealthy if you overdo them in everyday life, but this is great 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 research has revealed that people on low-carb diets are more likely to suffer fatigue and light-headedness during a workout.