Not eating a lot of carbs was a popular trend for years. Recently, however, this dietary regimen has been hugely criticized. As is the case with most aspect of a healthy lifestyle, there is no simple answer whether something is good or bad for you. There is always a “depends” as well as a good and a bad side.
Since most of us are not crazy active, we should consume less carbs, as recommended by Health Department. Before the body gets to burn fat it burns all of the carbs stored in the muscles and liver. But if we are sitting down most of the time, then not much of this energy will be used, leading to weight gain and other related problems.
Weight loss and carbs
Many studies have tried to address the question of whether a low-carb or a low-fat diet is better for weight loss. In 2003, a randomized control trial gave the edge to the low-carb in the short-term (six months). In 2014, a meta-analysis (i.e. compiling data from many studies) also gave a slight edge to low-carb diets in the short-term, but over the long-term the differences became negligible.
Myth: Carbs will make you gain weight
The body needs a combination of carbs, fat and protein to function properly. Too little of one and too much of another will throw its equilibrium off, resulting in malnourishment, weight gain and muscle loss.
Carbohydrates are the body’s No. 1 go-to for fuel. Without it you will eventually lack energy, experience brain fog, and feel depressed and moody.
This is not to say you have to eat past every day. Opt out for vegetables, fruits and whole grains as the best sources of carbs.
Myth: Low-carb diets don’t cause bloating
Bloating, when excess gas builds up in the digestive tract, is an uncomfortable state, is a symptom of effect of constipation, which is a side effect of low-carb diets because the digestive system needs to adapt to its new regimen, according to the National Institute of Digestive Diseases.
Myth: Carb leads to diabetes
No, you are not doomed, even though diabetes is all about carbs, Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, says. “I tell patients to avoid everything that breaks down into sugar – carbs, milk, ice-cream, waffles,” Malkoff-Cohen says.
“It’s not that you can’t have them at all, but you never want multiple sources or carbs at the same time.”
A diet high in whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, according to studies. Efforts should be made to replace refined-grain/carbs with whole-grain foods.
The good of low-carb diets
For the typical American, cutting out carbohydrates really boils down to cutting out a lot of low nutrient foods like sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts.
There is always a benefit to cutting these foods out of your diet—or at least limiting them. Low-carbohydrate diets focus on protein and fat, which provide satiety.
Side effects of low-carb diets:
Carbohydrates are often cut out unilaterally, without taking stock of what nutrients are involved. For many people, low-carb diets end up meaning high-meat diets. Don’t cut out entire food groups.
If your diet focuses mainly on fatty cuts of meat, whole dairy products and other low-carb but high-fat foods, you may see a spike in your cholesterol levels, which also increases your risk for heart disease.
Whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy all provide key nutrients that meat cannot. It’s important to keep in mind that your body requires carbohydrates to function. Specifically, carbs are your brain’s preferred source of fuel. Sometimes a low-carb diet can leave you feeling fuzzy-headed.
Carbohydrates are also the first source of fuel that your muscles use when you are active. You could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts if your low-carb diet keeps you feeling a little sluggish, makes you cut out of the gym early, or if your form suffers while you exercise.
Risk of low-carb diets
There is nothing wrong with cutting back on bad carbs such as those coming from fries, but you can’t give up on all carbs. People trying to lose weight adapt such diets because the body burns carbs before it gets to the fat (ketosis). But experts have rung the alarm.
Long-term depletion of carbs can potentially lead to serious health issues down the road. Risks of low-carb diets include high cholesterol, kidney problems, stones and osteoporosis because you’re getting rid of more calcium than you should.
Your liver is exposed to extra stress as it is forced to assist with manufacturing glucose from fats and proteins. Potentially toxic amounts of ammonia are produced as proteins are converted into glucose and your body has more difficult time producing mucus. The immune system becomes impaired as risk of pathogenic infection increases and your body loses the ability to produce compounds called glycoproteins, which are vital to cellular functions.