What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are actually a macronutrient (along with protein and fat) and they play a very vital role in your overall health, productivity, and yes, your weight-loss success.
“It’s really important for people to understand that the body’s preferred source of fuel for most everyday activity is carbohydrates.
The idea that “carbs are bad” has left many people confused about carbohydrates and their importance for our health, including maintaining a healthy body weight.
Carbohydrates are a broad category and not all carbs are the same. It’s the type, quality, and quantity of carbohydrates in our diet that’s important.
Where do carbohydrates come from?
People get their carbohydrates from food. All plants contain carbohydrates, which typically represent a significant portion of people’s dietary intake.
Carbohydrates comprise sugar molecules called saccharides. These molecules contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
How does the body process carbohydrates?
The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to use them as:
- a steady source of energy for bodily functions
- a quick and instant source of energy when exercising
- a reserve of energy that the body stores in the muscles or liver and releases when necessary
If the body is already storing enough energy and does not require more, it converts glucose to fat, which can lead to weight gain.
Glucose cannot stay in the bloodstream, as it can be damaging and toxic.
After a person eats, the pancreas releases insulin to help move glucose into the body’s cells, which can use or store it.
Insulin is responsible for preventing a person’s blood sugar levels from getting too high.
Types of carbs and what to focus on:
A low-carb diet isn’t just about weight loss, it may also improve your health.
For this reason, the diet should be based on whole, unprocessed foods and healthy carb sources.
Low-carb junk foods are often unhealthy.
If you want to improve your health, choose unprocessed foods such as:
Choose carbohydrate sources that include fiber.
If you prefer a moderate carb intake, try to choose unrefined starch sources, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, and brown rice.
Added sugars and other refined carbs are always unhealthy options, it’s recommended that you limit or avoid them.
It’s very important to choose healthy, fiber-rich carb sources. A healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, even at the lowest level of carb intake.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat per Day to Lose Weight?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Daily Value (DV) for carbs is 300 grams per day when eating a 2,000-calorie diet.
Some people reduce their daily carb intake with the aim of losing weight, cutting down to around 50–150 grams per day.
Low carbohydrate diets can be very effective for weight loss, according to research.
Reducing carbs tends to reduce your appetite and cause automatic weight loss, or weight loss without the need to count calorie
For some people, a low-carb diet allows them to eat until fullness, feel satisfied, and still lose weight.
The number of carbs a person should eat every day for weight loss varies depending on their age, sex, body type, and activity levels.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs provide 45–65% of your daily calorie intake for all age groups and sexes
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Daily Value (DV) for carbs is 300 grams per day when eating a 2,000-calorie diet
Some people reduce their daily carb intake with the aim of losing weight, cutting down to around 50–150 grams per day.
Research has shown that low-carb diets can be part of an effective weight-loss strategy.
This diet restricts your intake of carbohydrates — including sugars and starches like bread and pasta — and replaces them with protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.
Studies show that low-carb diets can reduce a person’s appetite, lead to them eating fewer calories, and help them to lose weight more easily than in other diets, provided they maintain the diet.
Low-carb diets help you burn fat.
Low carb diets greatly reduce your blood levels of insulin, a hormone that brings the glucose from carbs into the body’s cells.
One of the functions of insulin is to store fat. Many experts believe that the reason low-carb diets work so well is that they reduce your levels of this hormone.
Another thing that insulin does is to tell the kidneys to retain sodium. This is the reason high-carb diets can cause excess water retention.
When you cut carbs, you reduce insulin and your kidneys start shedding excess water
It’s common for people to lose a lot of water weight in the first few days on a low-carb diet. Some dietitians suggest you might lose up to 5–10 pounds (2.3–4.5 kg) this way.
Weight loss will slow down after the first week, but your fat mass may continue to decrease if you maintain the diet.
One study compared low-carb and low-fat diets and used DEXA scanners, which are very accurate measures of body composition.
The low-carb dieters lost significant amounts of body fat and gained muscle at the same time.
Studies also show that low-carb diets are particularly effective at reducing the fat in your abdominal cavity, also known as visceral fat or belly fat.
This is the most dangerous fat and is strongly associated with many diseases.
If you’re new to low-carb eating, you’ll probably need to go through an adaptation phase where your body is getting used to burning fat instead of carbs.
This is called the “low carb flu,” and it’s usually over within a few days.
After this initial phase is over, many people report having more energy than before, with no afternoon dips in energy that are common on high carb diets.
Water weight drops fast on a low-carb diet, and fat loss takes a bit longer. It’s common to feel unwell in the first few days of lowering your carb intake.
However, many people feel excellent after this initial adaptation phase.
What carbs should I avoid to lose belly fat?
This means that some of the fat lost on a low-carb diet is harmful abdominal fat.
Just avoiding the refined carbs — like sugar, candy, and white bread — should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein intake high.
If the goal is to lose weight fast, some people reduce their carb intake to 50 grams per day.
What Are Refined Carbs?
Refined carbs are also known as simple or processed carbs.
There are two main types:
- Sugars: Refined and processed sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, and agave syrup
- Refined grains: These are grains that have had the fibrous and nutritious parts removed. The biggest source is white flour made from refined wheat.
Refined carbs have been stripped of almost all fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For this reason, they can be considered as “empty” calories.
They are also digested quickly and have a high glycemic index. This means that they lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
Eating foods high on the glycemic index has been linked to overeating and increased risk of many diseases
Sadly, sugars and refined grains are a very large part of the total carbohydrate intake in many countries.
The main dietary sources of refined carbs are white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals, and added sugars.
They are also added to all sorts of processed foods.
Refined carbs include mostly sugars and processed grains. They are empty calories and lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Refined Carbs Can Drive Overeating and Increase the Risk of Obesity.
A large portion of the population is overweight or obese. Eating too many refined carbs may be one of the main culprits
Because they are low in fiber and digested quickly, eating refined carbs can cause major swings in blood sugar levels. This can contribute to overeating.
This is because foods high on the glycemic index promote short-term fullness, lasting about one hour.
On the other hand, foods that are low on the glycemic index promote a sustained feeling of fullness, which lasts about two to three hours.
Blood sugar levels drop about an hour or two after eating a meal high in refined carbs. This promotes hunger and stimulates parts of the brain associated with reward and craving
These signals make you crave more food, and are known to cause overeating
Long-term studies have also shown that eating refined carbs is linked with increased belly fat over the course of five years
Furthermore, refined carbs may cause inflammation in the body.
Several experts have speculated that this may be one of the primary dietary causes of leptin resistance and obesity
Refined carbs cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, and only make you feel full for a short time. This is followed by a drop in blood sugar, hunger, and cravings.
‘Carbs’ Are Not the Cause of Obesity.
Though limiting your carbs can lead to weight loss, it doesn’t mean that eating carbs in and of itself is what caused weight gain in the first place.
This is actually a myth that’s been debunked.
While it’s true that added sugars and refined carbs are linked to an increased chance of developing obesity, the same is not true of fiber-rich, whole-food sources of carbohydrates.
In fact, humans have been eating carbs for thousands of years, in some form or another.
Yet the rate of developing obesity started growing since the mid-20th century with an uptick around 1980 when 4.8 percent of men and 7.9 percent of women had obesity.
Today our numbers have increased exponentially and 42.4 percent of adults have obesity.
It’s also worth noting that some populations have remained in excellent health while eating a high-carb diet.
The Okinawan people and the Kitavan islanders, who consume a significant portion of their daily calorie intake from carbohydrates, have some of the longest lifespans.
What they have in common is they eat real, unprocessed foods.
However, populations that consume a large number of refined carbohydrates and processed foods tend to have a higher chance of developing negative health outcomes.
Humans have been eating carbs since long before the obesity epidemic, and there are many examples of populations that have remained in excellent health while eating diets high in carbs.
Low-Carb Eating — The Basics
Your food choices depend on a few things, including how healthy you are, how much you exercise, and how much weight you have to lose.
Consider this meal plan as a general guideline, not something written in stone.
Eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils, and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains.
Don’t eat sugar, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), wheat, seed oils, trans fats, “diet” and low-fat products, and highly processed foods.
Foods to Avoid.
Avoid these six food groups and nutrients, in order of importance:
- Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream, and many other products that contain added sugar.
- Refined grains: Wheat, rice, barley, and rye, as well as bread, cereal, and pasta.
- Trans fats: Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
- Diet and low-fat products: Many dairy products, cereals or crackers are fat-reduced but contain added sugar.
- Highly processed foods: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.
- Starchy vegetables: It’s best to limit starchy vegetables in your diet if you’re following a very low-carb diet.
You must read ingredient lists even on foods labeled as health foods.
Low-Carb Food List — Foods to Eat
Base your diet on these real, unprocessed, low-carb foods.
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and others; grass-fed is best.
- Fish: Salmon, trout, haddock, and many others; wild-caught fish is best.
- Eggs: Omega-3-enriched or pastured eggs are best.
- Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and many others.
- Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- High-fat dairy: Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
- Fats and oils: Coconut oil, butter, lard, olive oil, and fish oil.
If you need to lose weight, be careful with cheese and nuts, as it’s easy to overeat on them. Don’t eat more than one piece of fruit per day.
Foods to Maybe Include:
If you’re healthy, active, and don’t need to lose weight, you can afford to eat a few more carbs.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some others.
- Unrefined grains: Brown rice, oats, quinoa, and many others.
- Legumes: Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, etc. (if you can tolerate them).
What’s more, you can have the following in moderation, if you want:
- Dark chocolate: Choose organic brands with at least 70% of cocoa.
- Wine: Choose dry wines with no added sugar or carbs.
Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and may provide health benefits if you eat it in moderation.
However, be aware that both dark chocolate and alcohol will hinder your progress if you eat/drink too much.
Please let us know in the comments below:
- What kind of foods do you consume more of?
- What kind of drinks do you drink more of?
- Do you have an after effect from eating and/or drinking too many carbohydrates? If so, please enlighten us. Thank you so much.
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Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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