For decades, fat was the enemy, but today the media has found a new scapegoat: Carbs…

And generalizing about carbs and insulin seems to get more popular by the year. In fact, in the eyes of many, the glycemic index and the insulin index seem to rank foods by how dangerous they are. Like cholesterol, insulin is misunderstood as being unilaterally harmful.

Yet our bodies need and produce both substances. Cholesterol serves to make pregnenolone, and from there many other hormones, such as testosterone. Insulin is required to store glucose (the sugar in your blood) or use it for energy; it was one of the very first hormones to be discovered, and the first to be investigated in the context of sensitivity.

Early evidence suggested that carbs caused insulin insensitivity. This can be true in diabetics and in insulin-resistant people overeating carbs, but not in healthy people on a healthy diet. This said, there is no denying that modern society makes it very easy to overeat carbs: Processed carbs are often delicious and seldom very filling, despite being high in calories.

Cutting carbs (especially processed carbs) can be a viable fat-loss decision, if it helps you eat less. But if cutting carbs makes you miserable and always hungry, you should consider other options. If you wish to lose weight, what matters is not to replace fat by carbs or carbs by fat, but to end most days on a calorie deficit.

The Truth: Carbohydrates have been vilified long enough. As long as you don’t overindulge, starches are not inherently harmful.