Hands up those of you who have significantly reduced your intake of carbohydrates in recent times?
Let’s face it, you won’t be alone, as carbs have got a seriously bad rap over past years. In fact there is a real trend of low-carb diet after low-carb diet on the market. It would seem that we are almost being shamed into not eating them!
The truth is though, that carbohydrates are a primary energy source for the whole body and brain so avoiding this macronutrient can do more harm than good. In fact, research suggests that eliminating carbohydrates and replacing them with animal-based protein and fat sources is associated with a higher mortality risk.
What is the impact of no-carb diets?
When we stop eating carbs our body basically does not have enough sugar for energy. Obviously our body needs energy to function, so the body breaks down stored fats and protein. This process is called Ketosis.
Isn’t that what we want though, I hear you cry?
Yes and no! While ketosis has a variety of health benefits, including weight loss and lower blood sugar levels, when the body stores too many ketones (acids produced as a byproduct of burning fat) the blood can become too acidic which over time can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and brain.
Signs of carbohydrate depletion can include:-
- Lethargy – When you use fat instead of glucose for energy you can often feel lightheaded, dizzy, weak and energy levels will be low.
- Mood – Cutting down on your carb intake may also cause nutrient deficiencies which can lead to frequent headaches and mood swings.
- Brain Fog – The brain starts to break down fatty acids as an alternative way to generate energy. This is a slower process and can cause difficulty in concentration.
- Constipation – Getting enough fiber in our diet is essential for healthy digestion. Fiber is a carbohydrate, so avoiding carbs can leave you feeling a little bunged up!
Time to take the smart approach
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines indicate that carbohydrates should constitute 45% to 65% of our daily calories.
So what type of carbs should we be looking for to meet these guidelines without impacting our waistline?
You need to look for complex carbohydrates. Whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables take a long time to digest which in turn lowers the glycemic load.
Choose fiber-rich fruits, such as apples or berries and try and consume low fat varieties of dairy products.
Pair it the right way
Ensuring you pair the correct carbs with protein and fat will slow the rate of sugar absorption into the blood such as:-
- Greek yoghurt and berries.
- Bagel with roasted chicken.
- An apple with nut butter.
- Spaghetti with meat sauce.
- Raw veggies with hummus.
- Roasted sweet potatoes with a meat of your choice.
We are obviously all very different and our body responds in many different ways with regard to the types and percentages of nutrients we need. If in doubt, ask your doctor about the type of carbs you should be choosing to stay healthy and fit your lifestyle.