We have all heard how carbs are bad for you and if you really want to lose weight you should avoid them and blah, blah, blah... Well, the truth is not all carbs are bad, in fact, only one type should be avoided. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Avoiding carbs altogether can bring serious health problems which defeats the purpose of doing a diet in the first place.
Carbs are converted into blood sugar and blood sugar is the go-to source of fuel for every cell in our body. Even our brain uses this blood glucose to function and it can account for about ¼ of our resting metabolic rate.
In the short term, deprivation of carbs can cause dizziness, lack of energy, headaches, constipation and so on. In the long term it can cause more headaches, muscle cramps, diarrhea, constipation and bad breath. Aside from these, somewhat mild consequences, a sustained low-carb diet can cause health complications such as heart arrhythmias, osteoporosis, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, impairment of physical activity and cholesterol abnormalities.
The brain needs carbs to produce serotonin, which is a mood elevator, without it, we tend to be restless, irritable or depressed.
Also, low-carb diets tend to encourage the consumption of fatty foods , normally high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and are overall, very nutrient deficient. Sustaining such a diet in the long run could result in malnutrition.
Depriving our body of carbohydrates, the main fuel source for every cell in our body, forces our body to switch to burning fat instead, this is called ketosis. This sounds like a great deal but the truth is, most of the weight lost in the first few weeks, before hitting a plateau, is water weight, not fat. Studies have shown that by putting our body in ketosis mode, it is actually forced to burn more of our own protein than fat. Our body at this point needs to get its glucose from somewhere so it breaks down our protein which is mostly found in muscles. Just to feed our brain, our body would need to breakdown about half a pound of protein a day. So we are losing a small amount of fat, but in the process, we are also slowly shrinking our muscles, losing water, and putting ourselves at risk of all the health issues I mentioned before.
So, staying away from carbs is a good idea but it does not apply to all carbs. Simple carbs are the ones we should try to stay away from. These raise blood sugar quickly and provide almost immediate energy but it promptly runs out and you are left with a drop of sugar levels which makes you hungry sooner, which creates a cycle.
Simple carbs can be found in table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juices, sodas, candy, white flour, sweetened cereals, white rice, white pasta, and all processed wheat.
Complex Carbohydrates are the good kind, the ones you get from nature and have not been processed and stripped off their nutrients in an attempt to change the color, texture or shape to make them more appealing. These good carbs provide fiber, and a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Some sources of these good carbs are whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and oats, whole vegetables, whole fruits, and legumes.
Always try to avoid products with added simple carbs on the ingredients list such as glucose, fructose, dextrin, maltodextrin, galactose, maltose or just anything that ends with “ose”. Good luck! and remember, always read your labels and choose wisely!