Do Carbs Make You Gain Weight, and are Carbs Bad for You?
A popular theory when it comes to eating for weight loss is that carbs are bad and can make you gain weight. But is this really true? Should you give up carbs, or focus on eating only certain carbs? In this article, we’ll review carbohydrates in detail and provide information backed by evidence on how they affect our weight.
What Are Carbs?
There are three micronutrients found in food and drink, carbohydrates (carbs) are one. The other two are protein and fat, and all three macronutrients are important parts of a balanced diet. But carbs are getting a bad reputation lately. Certain fad diets are making people afraid to eat carbs, which leads to them cutting out this important macronutrient entirely so they can lose weight. This usually isn’t a healthy approach – here’s why:
Carbs are Needed by Your Body for Energy
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the main source of energy used to power our bodily functions, daily activities, and exercise. As a result, severely restricting carbohydrates can leave you feeling tired, cranky, and even unwell. Additionally, foods that contain carbs can have several different vitamins and minerals plus fiber, all of which are important for our health.
Types of Carbs: Simple vs Complex
The type of carbs we consume is important to consider. Simple carbohydrates (also known as processed carbohydrates) are highly refined and have lost their fiber content in the manufacturing process. Simple carbs such as cookies and packaged baked goods, chips, candy, white bread, white pasta, and sugary cereals can also have added sugar. These processed carbs throw off many systems that help regulate our appetite and nutrient storage. Due to this, eating simple carbs can lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, quickly followed by a crash. In turn, this leads to a drop in energy levels and can also cause an increase in hunger and cravings.
Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber and nutrients. Because fiber does not get broken down by the body into sugar, foods that are high in fiber do not cause the same sudden spike in our blood sugar and insulin levels as simple carbs do. Fiber can help us to feel more satiated and can decrease cravings, so we’re more satisfied with less food and for longer. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, steel cut or rolled oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread and pasta. These foods are an important part of a balanced diet. There is scientific evidence that suggests that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps prevent serious health problems like cardiovascular disease.
“Good” vs “Bad” Carbs
Thinking of foods as “good” or “bad” is often not helpful, when in fact food is fuel for our bodies. Framing foods as “good” or “bad” may lead to the thinking that we need to restrict ourselves from certain foods. This type of thinking can also encourage negative cycles of self-blame for eating the “bad foods”. This in turn can make it harder to lose weight, and lead to a disordered relationship with food and disordered eating behaviors. Instead of judging foods as black-or-white, good-or-bad, consider that some foods are more nutritious than others, providing more fuel our bodies need. But also keep in mind that variation and moderation are key elements of a balanced diet that is sustainable over time.