If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s probably one very big question that you’d like the answer to: are carbs the good guy, or the bad guy? Carbohydrates, and their role in our overall health, are the subject of great debate, and the truth is that there really is no definitive answer here. That’s because not all carbs are created equally; there are some which are essential for our overall wellbeing, and there are some that many of us may wish to cut down on if we want to maintain a healthy life, and a healthy weight.
Types of Carbohydrates
There are three main types of carbohydrate: sugary carbs, starchy carbs, and fibrous carbs. Starchy carbs are those found in starchy vegetables, like potatoes, and help to give us the energy we need to complete those tough weight loss workouts. Fibrous carbs are found in whole grain breads and pastas, and have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and maintain bowel health. Sugary carbohydrates, however, don’t really seem to have much in the way of advantages. Found in alcohols and sugary foods like cakes and biscuits, it’s this type of carbohydrate that we should be trying to eliminate from our daily diets.
By eliminating all types of carbohydrate, we severely limit our food choices, which may increase the amount of saturated fat in the diet; we may not succeed in meeting fibre intake goals, and perhaps of greatest concern, we run the risk of becoming malnourished, especially in terms of vitamins A, E, and B6.
Carbohydrates and Weight Loss
The Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Paleo Diet… many popular modern weight loss programs base themselves on the strict avoidance of carbohydrates. Do they work? For some people, they can do, but it’s important to remember that in following one of these highly restrictive diets, you’re actively depriving your body of foods that are actually really good for it, including fruits, grains, nuts, and pulses.
Believe it or not, carbohydrates could actually help encourage healthy weight loss by helping you to feel fuller for longer. Brans, oats, whole grain breads, and potatoes, for example, are all packed full of carbohydrates, but they’re also considered to be low GI foods, too. Low GI foods release energy slowly over the day, rather than causing a sudden energy spike followed by a slump. This slump can leave you feeling tired and hungry, and may even send you on a search for unhealthy snacks in the kitchen cupboard.
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to keep energy levels up while simultaneously cutting down on caloric intake, and healthy yet carbohydrate-rich foods like bananas and grapes are the ideal snacks. Low carb alternatives, such as cheeses, can provide the body with more energy than it can reasonably use. Over time, this surplus of energy can result in weight gain, and ultimately increase the risk of obesity.
Embrace the Carbs
Carbohydrates are one of three important macronutrients; the others being protein and fat. We wouldn’t choose to completely give up protein, which helps to keep our bones and muscles strong, and we wouldn’t choose to completely give up fat, which the body cannot live without, so why would we choose to completely give up good carbs? The right types of carbohydrates are necessary for our continued health, and eliminating them from the diet can increase the risk of illness and disease.
It’s important to remember that, despite the popularity of low carb diets, cutting out carbohydrates isn’t a magic solution. In fact, carbs can be part of a healthy weight loss diet. The best way (and indeed the safest way) to lose weight is simply to expend more energy than you consume. It really is that simple.