I’m sure at least someone you know is on, or has been on, a low-carb or no-carb diet. Maybe even you have. And you know what? People have lost weight this way, for a variety of reasons. But is this necessary? No. In fact, cutting out carbs could not only make you miserable like the girl in the picture, it could negatively impact your health. Many people don’t know this, and authors of best-selling no-carb diet books certainly don’t want you to.
Carbs are not evil. Well, some of them kind of are. Not all carbs are created equal. The good carbs can actually be used to help you lose weight. And not water weight or muscle weight, but fat weight. The key is learning which carbs, and how much of them, to eat.
We need carbs to function. Carbs are nutrients that break down into glucose, our bodies’ primary source of energy. They’re in milk, fruits and veggies, rice, potatoes, bread, chocolate, and many other foods. We need 130 grams a day just for our brains to function. And if you cut them out, you could be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts, especially if you’re active. If you’re carb-depleted, your body won’t have the fuel necessary to get through the kinds of workouts needed to burn fat and be the fit person you want to be. For this reason, dieticians recommend that active people get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbs.
Carbs in vegetables, legumes and whole grains take longer to digest and give you a steady supply of energy to keep you full longer, not to mention tons of nutrition that your body needs.
Other carbs, like sugar that is added to foods and refined (white) grains are empty calories. Our bodies break them down quickly and the energy they give us is quick, but fleeting. Try to limit these.
Natural sugar that is in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) is also “quick” energy, but these sugars aren’t considered empty calories like the above, because milk and fruit have protein, fiber, and many good-for you nutrients that will fill you up and help you lose fat. Fruit (like a banana) is an awesome pre-workout snack because it gives you the natural, fast-digesting sugars you need to kill it during your work out. (Just remember to eat it 45-60 minutes beforehand so you don’t interrupt the digestion process.)
Pay attention to portions and labels. Some carb-rich foods can also be high in calories, and manufacturers sometimes sneak added sugars in with the “good” carbs. For example, whole wheat bread can be high in added sugar.
If anything should be considered evil, I’d choose added sugar. In fact, it’s very possible to become addicted to all of those sugary carbs, according to recent research in t the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And while the occasional sweet treat or white carb certainly won’t hurt you, making most of your grains “whole” grains will keep you healthier, and help you achieve your weight loss and fitness goals.
So what’s a serving of carbs look like? Here are some examples:
1/2 cup peas or corn; 1 potato; 1/2 cup chickpeas or lentils; 1/2 cup whole grain pasta; 1 slice whole wheat bread; 1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup broccoli; 12 baby carrots; 1 banana; 1 cup berries
1 cup low-fat yogurt; 1 cup low-fat milk; 1 1/2 oz. reduced fat cheddar
Some Sample meals:
breakfast: whole wheat English muffin, 1 egg, 1 slice low-fat cheese, 1 serving fruit
lunch: turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with veggies & avocado or hummus, plus 6 oz. plain yogurt with fruit
snack: 1 serving fruit and low-fat cheese stick