Are Carbohydrates Bad for Weight Loss Efforts

carbs-weight-lossCarbohydrates have quite bad reputation when it comes to weight loss. Many popular diet plans focus on either low carb diets or carb free diet. Some commonly known examples are South Beach Diet and Atkins diet plan. The underlying idea is that when you restrict calories, you force your body to burn fat for calories and we all associate weight loss with fat loss.

However, things are not as simple as this. Carbohydrates are one of the most important macronutrient in our food and the main source of providing energy in the form of calories to our bodies.

So first let us understand what are carbohydrates before we decide if carbohydrates are bad for weight loss.

Types of Carbohydrates

In simple terms, carbohydrates are those foods which get converted into sugar and glucose during the digestion process. This glucose is then used as main source of energy. Also note that our brains mostly use energy in the form of glucose.

Carbohydrates can be simple one which have readily available energy like honey, sugar, fruit juice and dairy products. Then there are complex carbohydrates in which the glucose molecules are long-chain which means that our bodies need to do extra work to break these and convert these into simpler forms of sugar. Common examples of complex carbs are pasta, bread, crackers, corn, potatoes. Complex carbohydrates a lot of health benefits apart from weight loss as well.[1]

Differences Between Carbohydrates

All carbs are ultimately converted into glucose which raises the blood sugar levels. The only difference is that simple carbohydrates do this quickly, whereas complex carbohydrates take longer for this process which helps in weight loss and diabetes.

Another factor is the amount of fiber in the foods with carbohydrates. Fiber is known to help with digestion and regulation of blood glucose levels. [2] Foods having fiber take longer for digestion and therefore glucose produced from these also enters the bloodstream slowly. And its good effect on weight has also been document well. [3]

Therefore, carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread, brown rice and pasta are better for weight loss than white pasta, white bread or white rice which mostly have their fiber removed.

Same goes for fruit. If we eat fruit, it releases glucose slowly whereas the sugar from fruit juice quickly enter the bloodstream.

Why You Should Not Stop Eating Carbohydrates

Foods containing carbs also have essential nutrients like essential fatty acids, zinc, Vitamin E, Vitamins B and folate. Similarly, having whole grain foods ensure that you get enough fiber. By eating vegetables having carbohydrates, you get very healthy compounds called phytonutrients which act as antioxidants and prevent disease. Two commonly known phytonutrients are flavonoids and carotenoids.

When you do not get enough carbohydrates, your body has to get calories either from fats or protein. But excess calories coming from fats have a byproduct called ketones which are not good for body. Similarly proteins are for maintaining body muscles and structure and when our bodies use proteins for energy it might affect muscles. Less muscles mean slower metabolism, which means that rapid weight loss will remain a dream. Dietary Guidelines 2015 also recommend that you do eat healthy carbohydrates.

Which Carbohydrates You Should Eat?

  1. Limit the use of foods having refined sugar. So watch out for foods containing corn syrup, honey, and added sugar. Some of the common items having lots of these simple carbs are cakes, donuts, chips, crackers and cookies.
  2. Opt for fresh fruit in place of fruit juice. And do eat different variety of veggies and fruits
  3. Eat whole-grain bread, pasta, brown rice and oats. Check the food labels to ensure that you buy 100 percent whole grain items.

In brief, you do not need to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet for quick weight loss. All you need to do is to opt for complex carbohydrates and watch out your portion sizes. As a general rule, your plate’s one-third should be carbohydrates.

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