High-carb foods have always been a no-go when it comes to losing weight. You may have been advised to avoid carbohydrates in your diet as much as possible, but health experts stress that this is not necessarily true. Carbohydrate-rich foods are an essential part of any healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is then converted into energy that is used to support your body and physical activity. We spoke with Dana Ellis Hoenes, PhD, a clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at UCLA Wilding School of Public Health, and author of A recipe for survival, and jamie nadeau, registered dietitian and nutritionist. Read on to find out more!
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What do carbohydrates do to your body and what you would notice without them
It’s no secret that carbohydrates are one of the most delicious of all food groups. But there are some carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, and potato chips (which can lead to inflammation!), that are actually very bad for your health. They can lead to chronic inflammation, bowel problems, weight gain, and more.
“Carbohydrates, short for carbohydrates, are long chains of carbon-containing molecules, also known as sugars, found in plant foods,” Honnes explains. “When we consume and digest these plant foods, including grains, fruits, and vegetables (and dairy products), we break them down into more simple sugars, known as glucose, fructose, and (dairy) galactose. Our bodies use these sugars to fuel our cells.”
“Carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients (there are three of them: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). The macronutrient is where we get all of our energy (calories) from. Carbohydrates are broken down into their simplest form, sugar, to give your body energy,” Nadeau agrees.
Although not all carbohydrates are bad for you, there is one specific type of carbohydrate that you should eliminate from your diet if you want to lose weight: refined carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Foods contain different amounts of carbohydrates,” Nadeau notes. For example, cauliflower has fewer carbs than potatoes. You’ll also find carbs in added sugars like table sugar, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, and typical “sweets” like cookies, cake, and candy. Our bodies also “process” certain types of carbs differently. For example, you’ll get a greater glycemic spike from candy than from beans.”
Just because some carbs stop weight loss, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat carbs again. It’s not healthy, because, says Hunnes, “Our muscle cells and our brain cells live on glucose. If we don’t have glucose in our bodies, we start to break down muscle and fat into alternative fuel sources that aren’t efficient to use.” There is no need to completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. You need healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, in your diet to maintain your energy.
Nadeau agrees, “Carbs, especially high-fiber carbs like whole grains, legumes, and fruits, are full of health-promoting nutrients that are great for our health.” Instead of cutting out carbs, I recommend that you be careful about the ones you choose regularly. Choosing high-fiber carbohydrates will help stabilize your blood sugar and satisfy your meal. “Good to know!
Well, there you go! Both experts stress that completely eliminating all carbohydrates from your diet is not only impossible, but also extremely unhealthy. Instead, try cutting out refined carbohydrates, such as potato chips, which are only harmful to your body. This can reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and boost your overall body health!