Carbs Are Not The Enemy…If You Choose The Right Ones
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Summer is just around the corner, and so many of us are trying to lose excess weight we put on during the pandemic. Your first plan of attack may be to cut out carbohydrates as much as possible, but a recent study suggests that going low-carb may not be entirely necessary for significant weight loss.
The study involved 7,000 adults who were overweight. Out of these adults, 1,800 had type 2 diabetes. The researchers analyzed weight loss diets that varied in carbohydrate content. For example, some of the overweight adults were on:
- Very low-carb or even ketogenic diet. This diet contained less than 50 grams of carbs per day (or just 10 percent of total energy from carbs)
- Low-carb. This diet allowed between 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day (less than 45 percent of total energy from carbs)
- “Balanced” carb diet. This diet included 150 grams of carbs or more per day (45 to 65 percent of total energy from carbs)
Total energy is basically calories consumed but more specifically it is types of nutrients consumed within this caloric intake. We need six basic nutrients to live: carbohydrates, fat, protein, water, vitamins and minerals.
When looking at the adults who did not have type 2 diabetes, the ones that followed a low-carb diet did lose more weight, but the difference was pretty minimal. The ones following the very low-carb diet for three to eight and a half months only lost (on average) one kilogram (about two pounds) more than those who followed the balanced carb diet.
“However, when they ensured restrictions in energy intake were the same in both groups, by providing the food or meal plans, the difference was about half a kilogram,” according to this Medical Xpress report that discusses the study.
This basically means that everyone consumed about the same amount of calories even though one group had more carbs than the other.
“In longer-term weight-loss interventions lasting one to two years, the average difference in weight-loss between those on low-carb versus balanced carb diets was just under one kilogram.”
Furthermore, those with type 2 diabetes did have a greater weight loss by following a low-carb diet, however, this was only evident in the first three to six months. Over the course of one to two years, it really made no difference in weight loss if they followed a low-carb diet or a balanced carb diet.
“Overall, the review shows that whether you prefer a lower carb or a balanced carb eating pattern, both can work for weight loss.”
There are carbs in so many of the foods we eat - from foods as healthy as vegetables to foods that are unhealthy and processed such as donuts.
There are basically three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and fiber. Fiber and starch are considered complex carbs, and sugar is considered to be a simple carb. The general rule of thumb is that you want to consume mostly complex carbs, because they provide lasting energy while simple carbs cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
So you want to avoid simple carbs such as cakes, candy, white bread and crackers and sugar-sweetened beverages. The good news is there is a wide variety of healthy, complex carbohydrates. Some examples are:
Sweet Potatoes - Maybe we’ve been told that these starchy, sometimes creamy, root vegetables are not the best thing for the thighs, but sweet potatoes, in moderation, can really add substance to any meal. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), “bioactive compounds contained in this vegetable play a role in health promotion by improving immune function, reducing oxidative stress and free radical damage, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, and suppressing cancer cell growth.” Eat your sweet potatoes baked with the skin on and some light butter or olive oil if need be. They are great as a side dish to a salad or as an afternoon snack.
Whole Wheat Couscous - This is a great alternative to those tempting plates of refined flour pastas. Whole wheat couscous is packed with selenium. Selenium is an essential mineral with many health benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps the body repair damaged cells and decreases inflammation. It also can assist in improving thyroid health. It is important to maintain proper thyroid gland function. An overactive thyroid may cause sudden weight loss, irregular or rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness and irritability.
Whole Fruits - Now I get this isn’t a ‘fun carb,’ but that is a matter of opinion. Whole fruits are a pretty important and delicious food group. Put some berries in your yogurt, sweeten your salad with some grapes or pomegranates or simply have a handful of strawberries as a snack. You really can’t go wrong with fresh fruit.
Lentils - Long live the lentil! Lentils, along with chickpeas, dried beans and peas, are considered pulses. Pulses are edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Lentils are popular in Mediterranean and Indian cooking and come in a variety of types and colors, including red, green and brown. They are reportedly one of the oldest known sources of food, dating back to more than 9,000 years ago. According to a study, eating a serving of lentils may significantly reduce bad cholesterol in the body and, as a result, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Currently, North Americans eat less than half a serving of the recommended daily amount.
So there are tons of healthy carbohydrates from which to choose. We just need to look past the burgers, fries, pizza and doughnuts. Not to say that you can’t indulge every now and again, but maintaining a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains should take priority over your cheesecake obsession.
Finally, to ensure that you are nutritionally balanced and that you can move ahead full-steam with your weight loss goals, it is imperative to get a comprehensive nutrient test. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods helps, but it does not guarantee that your body is absorbing adequate nutrients from the foods you eat to remain healthy and help you lose weight.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.