HOW CARBS FIT INTO A HEALTHY DIET

We all want to lose weight quickly while staying healthy.  The introduction of the “low carb” diet tells us we can load up on bacon and ice cream as long as we are willing to ditch the buns on our burgers and just say “no” to pasta.  Amazingly, the low carbohydrate diet even comes with health benefits like lower cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides.  That all sounds great, so what’s the problem?  Research points out that bothtoo much carbohydrate and too little carbohydrate in our diet may be a cause for concern.  In this article, we’ll be discussing how the low carb diet works so you can make up your own mind as to whether or not reducing carbohydrates and diet will provide the sustainable weight loss and health benefits you’re looking for.

 

Do Low Carbohydrate Diets Work?

To answer the question “do low carb diets work”, it depends on your overall wellness goals.  The short answer is, yes.  However, the majority of weight loss comes from loss of water and muscle tissue, not fat which is what you need to lose to keep the weight off.  Also, if you’re trying to lose weight permanently, losing lean muscle tissue is like sabotaging your own body.

Also, be cautious in your choice because there are a variety of low carb diets that differ by the degree of carbohydrate deemed to be acceptable.  For example, some low carb diets recommend reducing non-healthy high carb foods such as sugary drinks, pastries, bread, and white rice.  More restrictive low carb diets even recommend limiting consumption of certain vegetables, fruits and legumes.  In extreme cases, very limited amounts of vegetables and fruits are allowed.

Even though low carb diets may work by causing weight loss, it’s important to remember they’re not for everyone.  Your health may actually suffer depending upon your individual metabolism or pre-existing health issues or condition.

 

Dangers of Low Carb Diet

If you’re overweight or obese, and especially if you have prediabetes or diabetes, cutting back on carbs can have immediate health benefits.  For example, your blood sugar and insulin levels can be reduced.

Let’s not get too excited, the low carb diet may also wreak havoc for some of us.  If you’re not getting the proper balance of carbs, protein and fat, your body may turn to muscle for energy.  I’ll wager none of us want to burn off muscle.  Plus, breaking down lean body mass (muscle) for energy can cause your metabolism to slow down because muscle tissue burns up a lot of calories. A decrease in the amount of muscle tissue you have will lead to a decrease in the number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight, making it much harder to keep your weight under control when you stop following a low carb diet.

Here’s something to keep in mind when asking yourself, is a low carb diet healthy.  Carbs power everything you do from thinking, to breathing, to running, and all activities in between.  If you restrict your carbohydrate intake, the body does not simply start breaking down fat tissue, first it turns to muscle for energy. The less muscle mass you have, the lower your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) becomes. RMR is the amount of calories your body needs to keep you alive when you are resting.  So, while it may appear you’re losing weight by consuming less carbs, you may be just losing water and crucial muscle mass.

Balance is Key

Studies prove that carbs are an essential part of  nutrition
with regard to optimal health.  Why then could a diet low in carbs be dangerous?
We have now learned that too many or too few carbohydrates can be harmful.
The key is balance, and the right sources for healthy fats, proteins and carbs.

If you follow a low carbohydrate diet that’s higher in fat and possibly higher in protein, it’s very important to choose foods with healthy unsaturated fats and healthy proteins.  This means you may want to limit foods containing saturated and trans fats such as meat, dairy products and processed foods like pasta, crackers and pastries.  This diet has several favorable features, but a high intake of animal-based saturated fats is definitely not one them, and may offset many benefits.

Yes, you can lose weight with a low carb diet and other diets, but let’s not forget a key item when considering our overall wellness regimen.  Exercise is an important component.  As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75% diet and 25% exercise.  Without exercise, only a portion of your weight loss from diet is from fat.  You’re also stripping away muscle and bone density.  Most of us want to build muscle, not lose it.  Working out stimulates growth of those metabolic tissues.  Weight loss through exercise means you’re burning mostly fat while building muscle.

What To Eat On a Low Carb Diet?

If you are wondering what to eat on a low carb diet, we have a few tips that can help you make the perfect grocery shopping list.

First off, eggs and all kinds of meat have zero or close to zero carbs. They are also packed with nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 (beef and lamb) and proteins (chicken). Turkey, veal, and venison are all great choices too. Seafood and fish such as salmon, trout, herring, and tuna are also incredibly healthy and will cover the recommended daily intake of iodine, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.

When it comes to vegetables, as long as you avoid starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, you’ll keep the carbs low.

From leafy greens to carrots and Brussels sprouts, vegetables are also loaded with vitamins that will promote your overall health. The same goes for fruits – oranges, apples and all kinds of berries can be a great snack.

If you add nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia, almonds, and walnuts, you’re bound to enjoy your healthy snack.

 Are carbs necessary for a healthy diet?

Carbohydrates often get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight gain.  It is important to keep in mind, carbohydrates aren’t all bad.  Carbs are an essential part of a healthy diet and provide many important nutrients.

We now understand that carbohydrates have a place in our diet, but it is important to understand that some carbs are better for you than others.  How do we choose the healthy ones?

Here’s how healthy carbohydrates work in a balanced diet. 

  • Emphasize fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Aim for whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar.
  • Choose whole grains. Refined grains go through a process that strips out parts that hold important nutrients, such as B vitamins.
  • Stick to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, and many other vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat more legumes. Beans, peas and lentils are the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They’re low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium.  Legumes are a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat.
  • Limit added sugar. There is no health advantage to consuming any amount of added sugar.

What we’re saying is, please choose your carbohydrates wisely.  Limit foods such as sugary drinks, desserts and candy which are packed with calories but low in nutrition.  Instead, go for fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The amount of carb intake is also a determining factor when answering the question “are low carb diets healthy”.  According to dietary guidelines, carbs make up approximately 45% -65% of a person’s total daily calorie intake. The most relaxed form of low carb diets often go with 45% of daily carb calories.

Eating whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. While eating enough fiber (a type of carbohydrate that is in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked beans) may also protect against obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.

THE BOTTOM LINE is, your body NEEDS carbs to function properly.  They are not the enemy.  They are in fact your friend and the fuel you need to power through your day.

Low carb diets can work. Many people lose weight with them, gain energy and even resolve health issues.  However, it’s also clear that low carb diets aren’t for everyone.  They are popular because they can offer fast results, but they can be extremely difficult to sustain.

What have we learned?

# Not all low carb diets are the same
# A low carb diet approach is only effective if it is nutritionally sound
# There is still a question about the long-term health benefits of a true low carb diet
# A healthy diet plus exercise are both significant for sustaining long-term weight loss

BOTTOM LINE

Whatever diet approach you take, the idea is to pick one that works for you and your lifestyle.  Remember, taking steps to ensure your wellness should be fun.  Whether it’s what you’re eating or your method of making sure you get in that workout, it should be enjoyable not just something you endure.

Face it, if we don’t enjoy what we’re doing we won’t keep it up for long, and maintaining a healthy body is definitely something you want to stick with.  ENSURE YOUR WELLNESS!

Fitness