Why We Need Carbs

 

Nutrition advice and diet books are a dime a dozen. It seems like every season there is a new diet fad, a new supplement to try, or a new book that guarantees weight loss. Even the educated consumer can become confused by all the different choices, which may make it difficult to determine the best way to be healthy and to lose weight.

The low carb/no carb craze became very popular with the Atkins Diet. Different versions of this model are still widely accepted as the best way to lose weight. Many people swear by the no carb diet, but is this the most effective and healthiest way to shed pounds?

Even though many people have success on carbohydrate free diets, it is not ideal because our bodies absolutely need carbohydrates to survive. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body because they are easier to break down than fats and they spare protein for more important roles in the body. Additionally, the brain ONLY uses glucose (which comes from carbohydrates) to function. Therefore, if you do not consume enough carbohydrates, your body will break down protein in your muscles to use for fuel for the brain. This is the last thing that we want!

That does not mean we should binge on carbohydrate rich foods. You must choose wisely among starches, but you should not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet.  Fruits, vegetables, and starches all have carbohydrates. Most of your daily carbohydrates should come from fruit and vegetable intake.  Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are essential to human health and well- being. Phytonutrients contain antioxidants, which are compounds that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which, in turn, affect metabolism. Eliminating fruits and vegetables from your diet may have a negative impact on weight loss and on your health.

Since different types of carbohydrates break down into sugar at different rates, it is important to select high fiber, nutrient dense starches rather than simple sugars to avoid weight gain.  This is because simple sugars enter the bloodstream and are absorbed quickly, causing blood sugar levels to increase rapidly. This spikes insulin levels and over time your body may become resistant to this insulin. The job of insulin is to get sugar into the cells of your body where it is converted into energy or stored as fat.  As the body develops insulin resistance, there can be increased hunger and weight gain. Your body may also stop responding to the hormone, which could result in diabetes.

Simple sugars and processed foods metabolize quickly into sugar (glucose) and are mostly empty calories. Additionally, most of these items are filled with chemicals and do not contain important nutrients. Conversely, fruits, vegetables, and beans are filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which enter your bloodstream slowly and stabilize your metabolism.

Healthy grains with high fiber can be incorporated into the diet, but they should not contain sugar or be processed. People tend to overeat grains and they may cause inflammation, so it is best to limit them or measure them out into a very small portion if you are trying to lose weight. If you do eat grains, it is also a good idea to eat gluten free to decrease inflammation to the gut while dieting.

The bottom line is that carbohydrates are not the enemy, but sugar certainly is. Eat a variety of fresh, organic foods and stay away from anything processed. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. This is the answer to weight loss.

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