I’m sure someone you know is on, or has been on, a low-carb or no-carb diet. Maybe even you have. And you know what? People have lost weight this way for a variety of reasons. But depriving yourself of wheat is not necessary for weight loss. In fact, cutting out carbs could make you miserable and sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
When beloved media queen Oprah Winfrey recently proclaimed that she lost 26 pounds while eating bread–gasp–every single day, this came as a shock to many. After all, cutting carbs has become the new cool as of late. Just look at the myriad of best-selling no-carb diet books out there. What the authors of these money-making diets don’t want you to know is this: Carbohydrates are not evil.
In fact, some carbs can actually be used to help you lose weight. Not water weight or muscle weight, (a likely effect of many low-carb diets), but fat weight. The key is learning which carbs and how much of them, to eat.
Before you eat another carbohydrate, remember these points:
We need carbs to function.
Carbohydrates are nutrients that break down into glucose, your body’s primary source of energy. They’re not just in bread, pasta and rice, but also in milk, fruits and veggies, potatoes, chocolate, and many other foods. We need 130 grams a day just for our brains to work. If you’re carb-depleted, you could be doing yourself more harm than good, especially if you’re active. Your body won’t have the fuel necessary to get through the kinds of workouts needed to burn fat and become slimmer. For this reason, dietitians recommend that active people get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates.
Fiber is fab.
All carbs are not created equal. Carbs found in fiber-rich vegetables, legumes, and whole grains take longer to digest and give you a steady supply of energy to keep you full longer–not to mention tons of nutrition that your body needs. Diets that skip out on these foods deprive you of important health benefits while diets rich in fiber and whole grains are associated with weight loss, fat loss, and lower BMI, according to research.
Try to limit carbs from sugar that is added to foods and refined (white) grains. They are essentially empty calories, and our bodies break them down quickly. The energy they give us is quick but fleeting. Keep in mind that the natural sugar found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) is also “quick” energy, but these sugars aren’t considered empty calories like the above. Milk and fruit have protein, fiber, and many good-for-you nutrients that will fill you up and help you lose fat. A banana is a perfect pre-exercise snack because it gives you the natural, fast-digesting sugars you need to kill it during your workout.
Some carb-rich foods can also be high in calories, so find out what a portion is before piling on the pasta. Eat carbs moderately as part of a well-rounded diet. Also, look for hidden sugars. Manufacturers sometimes sneak added sugars in with the “good” carbs. For example, whole wheat bread can be high in added sugar.
While the occasional sweet treat or white carb certainly won’t hurt you, making most of your grains “whole” grains will keep you healthier and help you achieve, and maintain, your weight loss and fitness goals, long-term.
What about gluten-free diets?
Unless you’ve been instructed by your doctor to avoid gluten for a medical reason like celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you don’t need to eliminate gluten for weight loss. Those who have lost weight by avoiding foods that contain gluten–such as cookies, cakes, and other baked goods–have perhaps done so because these foods are high-calorie, not high-gluten.
Just because a food is labeled “gluten-free” does not make it healthier. These foods tend to be higher in calories and lower in fiber than regular grain products because extra fat, starch, and sugar need to be added to make them appetizing.
If you want to cut carbs completely, keep an eye on the ketogenic diet.
What does a serving of carbohydrates look like? Here are some examples: