Carbohydrates are no more fattening than any other calorie source.
If you read any of the low-carb books, you will get the idea that carbohydrates are evil and you should avoid them at all costs. There could be nothing further from the truth because your body needs carbohydrates to function properly. Without carbs, your brain will not work well. Sure, your body can make glucose, and you can function without them, but you cannot operate efficiently. It may be tempting to blame an undesirable health issue on a single item such as sugar, red meat, or gluten, but obesity and weight gain are more complicated than being tied to a single macronutrient.
Carbohydrates have received a bad reputation through the low-carb writings of the Atkins diet in the 1990s. This diet is based on the assumption that people are overweight because of over-consumption of carbohydrates. Dr. Atkins suggested that we can lose weight by correcting this overconsumption and reducing carbs and consuming more protein and fat in our diet to burn stored fat more efficiently. The fact is that carbohydrates can help us maintain our weight in the long run especially if we make healthy choices in our intake. Carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat and the same amount of calories as protein. Heck, you can subtract the fiber since it cannot be used for energy. If you just replace some of your diet of fatty foods with unrefined carbohydrates (fiber-filled), you are likely to reduce your caloric intake and lose weight, and the fiber will keep you feeling full longer.
Research on Carbohydrates:
- Whole grains reduce your risk of obesity. In my research, I found several studies that indicate that whole-grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of weight gain,,. Other studies have
found the same to be true with fruit and vegetable consumption and weight,,,. The bottom line on these studies is that you can lose weight by eating anything as longs as your caloric need is not exceeded.
- Low Carbohydrate diets work but have less success in the long term. Many studies on low-carb diets have shown them to be more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets over short periods of time but here are very few that indicate that they work over long-term follow-up. In fact, most longer-term studies suggest that both low-carb and low-fat approaches produce modest weight loss at best,,. Long-term weight loss or maintenance is more about reduced calories and less about which macronutrients they emphasize.
While some carbs are less good for us, some are healthy to consume. We should limit our simple carbohydrate but not eliminate the whole food group altogether.
Avoid these carbs:
- Refined and unrefined carbohydrates. Refined carbs are those that are sugar-laden and stripped of all nutrients. Examples include white bread, biscuits, cakes, candies, and pastries.
- Refined carbs are unhealthy not because they provide calories, but lack nutrients such as vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Furthermore, refined carbs usually have a higher glycemic index and are more quickly absorbed leaving you hungry sooner afterward. They tend to increase cravings.
Encourage consumption of these carbs:
- Unrefined carbs are good because they contain lots of nutrients.
- They are usually derived from natural food sources such as vegetables and fruit. They often include both complex and simple carbohydrates. Unrefined carbs are better for you because they contain plenty of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fiber that are necessary for our bodies to function properly.
The Bottom Line: I will agree that we tend to overeat foods that contain carbohydrates. When my family gathers, we love to have pasta dishes with garlic bread, and we usually eat 2-3 servings of each. This intake undoubtedly will pack on the pounds if you do it regularly. It is not that carbohydrates are bad or fattening, it is because we consuming too many servings. If we control our portion size, we can easily prevent weight gain. It’s a myth that all carbohydrates are bad or fattening. We can still learn a lot from low-carb diets. Carbs are not all created equal. Sure they all have 4 calories, but if you eat only unprocessed high fiber sources of carbohydrates, you will stay full longer. For this reason, you want to avoid processed carbs that are often high in sugar and bleached white flour. Instead, enjoy raw fruits, raw vegetables, beans, and whole grains which will provide a host of nutrients and fiber.