Carbs vs weight loss…the classic debate. I continually find myself advocating for people to keep carbohydrates in their diet. The rapid weight loss that people experience with eliminating carb-rich foods often prevents them from believing the experts. So if people are seeing results with cutting out carbs, why do I encourage carbohydrate intake? (1) Eliminating whole food groups feeds into diet culture and (2) carbohydrates are essential to a healthy lifestyle.
When we feed into a culture that encourages cutting out whole food groups then we continue this cycle of unsuccessful dieting. When people create a lifestyle of “yo-yo dieting” or weight cycling they are reducing the efficiency of their metabolism and making it harder on their body to maintain a healthy weight. When you become a cyclic dieter you are actually doing your metabolism more harm than good. When your weight fluctuates drastically eventually your body’s metabolism stops allowing you to lose weight at a desired pace.
I don’t center my client’s success around weight loss but I also know that many people associated “health” with weight. Diet culture promotes the false-assumption that if someone is thin then they are “healthy.” Which is why so many buy into the carb-free trend. In the following paragraphs I hope to demonstrate not only why carbohydrates are essential to your diet but why this assumption is dangerous and inaccurate.
There is a variety of science-based evidence that demonstrates the vital role of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrates are essential to energy production, they provide insoluble and soluble fiber, and can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance. Due to the lack of accurate information in our society I meet one too many people that are willing to put their health at risk to lose a few pounds.
Let me break down a few of the functions that I listed above. Our brain runs on glucose, which if you recall my last post, is the energy source that our cells need. Have you ever been so hungry that you aren’t able to think straight?? That’s because your brain didn’t have enough carbohydrates to allow your cells to complete metabolism. Metabolism is the system that our cells uses to create energy for our body to function. Glucose is the star of this show which means our body doesn’t do what it needs to do if we don’t have carbohydrates.
The fiber that carbohydrates provides goes beyond our gut health. We often know fiber as the source of a healthy bowel but what you might not know is that fiber is essential to reducing cholesterol in the blood. Fiber does this incredible thing…it grabs the cholesterol in our gut and allows our body to excrete it rather than absorb it into our blood. Do you know where fiber comes from?? CARBOHYDRATES. So to all my high-cholesterol friends trying to lower your cholesterol with the keto diet. That might not be the best idea.
Now I’m not ignorant to the fact that our society functions on energy dense foods with minimal nutrient content (i.e. “junk food.”) I am also not unaware that many of these foods fall into the carbohydrate category. Although I am not an advocate for eliminating carbs from the diet, I am a proponent of including nutrient-dense carbohydrates into your diet. When deciding on what type of carbohydrates to include in your diet choose minimally processed items. Fruits and vegetables are a great example of an unprocessed or minimally processed carbohydrates. These should be the foundation of our diets. They provide vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Whether they are raw, cooked, canned, frozen, or juiced they should be the bulk of what we are eating.
Another type of carbohydrate that is minimally processed are whole grains like brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, quinoa, barley, oats, etc. The last type of carb in this family are your processed grains and flours. These should be consumed in moderation. They include sweet treats such as cake, cookies, and brownies. As well as processed white bread and white rice.
I encourage you to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with whole grains and include the processed carbohydrates in moderation. If you only take away one statement from this article let it be this; All types of carbs can be part of a healthy diet and all food is good food.