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Posted July 19, 2018 by Rose Ann Chiurazzi, Registered Dietitian, Summa Health
Atkins, paleo, low-carb, no carb, how do you choose? If weight loss is a priority for you, or if you are just looking to eat healthier, there is an abundance of diets, meal plans and fads out there.
But what exactly are carbohydrates (carbs) and why are some of them so “bad” for us? Below is a breakdown of the types of carbohydrates, what they do to our bodies, which ones we can eat and those to avoid.
What are carbs?
A carbohydrate is a macronutrient. Protein, fat and carbohydrate make up the trio of macronutrients that fuel our bodies. This trio is required in relatively large amounts for human growth and development. Carb’s important role is to provide the majority of energy to fuel our body. However, it’s the type and amount of carbs you are consuming that can cause weight gain.
Carbohydrates can be divided into three categories:
Why do I keep hearing that they are so bad then?
All of the carbohydrate that we consume is turned into glucose so that we can absorb it and use it as energy. When we eat more carbs than we need, our body stores some of the extra glucose in the liver for future use, and then stores the rest as fat.
Carbohydrates can be divided again into two basic groups: simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates are sugars made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are digested very quickly and provide the most energy. While some of these occur naturally in milk and fruit, most are added to foods and are not part of a healthy diet. Raw sugar, brown sugar, corn and high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and glucose are all obvious simple carbs. Simple carbs are turned into glucose most easily.
Most complex carbs fall under the starches category. They can be found in grains, beans, sweet potatoes and sprout breads. This category also includes refined complex carbohydrates. Refined complex carbs have undergone processing that removes much of the fiber, vitamins and minerals, which makes them no different than a simple carb. This is where most breads, flour, pastas and rice fit in, including those labeled as whole wheat, whole grain, and brown rice. Unfortunately, the majority of the food in our grocery stores is highly processed, so even those labeled as “whole grain” act like a simple carb in our bodies.
When we introduce a large number of refined and/or simple carbohydrates to our diet, this can cause some serious health effects. These types of carbohydrates are almost always lacking in essential nutrients, making them likely to cause:
Countless studies have shown that a low-carb diet can be very effective for weight loss and managing chronic diseases that care caused by excess weight, such as Type 2 diabetes and some forms of heart disease. However, a low-carb diet without the right tools can actually be harmful. If the goal is weight loss, you need to eat a higher amount of protein, and you need to eat a small amount of healthy carbohydrates to make sure you get the key nutrients found in fruits and other high-fiber goodies. Any diet instructing you to eliminate all carbs from your diet is not a well-balanced diet for the long term. There are good carbs that can and should be eaten when trying to lose weight.
Carbs that should be avoided when trying to lose weight:
The Summa Health Weight Management Institute has been helping people lose weight since 2004. The Institute offers both surgical and non-surgical options for weight loss, including appointments with dietitians, obesity medicine physicians, psychologist, and surgeons. Depending upon the degree of your obesity and the level of knowledge you have regarding the options for addressing it, we can help you decide which of our weight loss options best fits your needs.