While the low-carb diet trend is still going strong, experts suggest you pay more attention to quality, not quantity.
Carbs are not your enemy
Over the years, carbohydrates have become nutritional villains. It seems everywhere you look, people advise you to watch carbs, cut carbs, or go low-carb. But you need carbs – and more than you may think. Dietary carbs provide the body’s primary energy source, glucose, which fuels everything you do, from breathing to thinking to running. The Institute of Medicine recommends all adults get 45% to 65% of their daily calories from carbs, which is 203 to 293 grams per day based on an 1,800-calorie daily diet. This means about half of everything you eat should be carbohydrates. So why are so many people convinced that it’s better to eat as few carbs as possible? The answer may lie in the sources of those carbs.
Not All Created Equal
The main issue with carbs is that they come from various foods – some good and some bad. “We get dietary carbohydrates from nutrient-rich whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables and dairy – but also from refined grains and the added sugars in processed foods and sugary beverages,” says Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health. Natural, unprocessed foods provide health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals along with carbs. On the other hand, highly processed foods made with refined flour – such as white bread, pasta, crackers and muffins – typically fall short on these nutrients. Sugary foods like cookies, cake, candy and soda, are especially low in nutrients and are often referred to as ‘empty calories’.
More Or Less?
While the recommended carb intake range is the same for all age groups, there are some circumstances that might influence whether you aim for the high or low end. For example, some research suggests that people with diabetes might benefit from a low-carb diet, but people with kidney problems should avoid low-carb eating plans because they tend to be high in protein, and too much protein is hard on the kidneys. It you suffer from constipation, increasing fibrerich carbohydrate foods, like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, can help. Additionally, carbs provide the energy necessary for vigorous exercise, so you may need extra carbs to prepare for strenuous workouts or endurance activities.
The Skinny On LowCarb Diets
Low-carb diets have been popular for weight loss for more than two decades now, but the research behind their
We get dietary s carbohydrate rich from nutrient- whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables and dairy.
effectiveness is still ongoing, and more studies come out on a regular basis. Here are some of the highlights of what science has found so far: Low-carb diets don’t help you lose weight in the long term. They are generally effective in the first six months for weight loss, but benefits dissipate in the long term because of difficulties with compliance. To get fat-burning physiological changes, you need to keep your carbohydrate intake exceedingly low (only 20 to 50 grams per day). This is hard to achieve or maintain and runs the risk of limiting important nutrients, phytochemicals, and fibre in your diet. When you reduce carbs, you have to replace those calories with something, so protein and saturated fat intake tend to go up. Higher-saturated fat diets have proven harmful health effects. On the flip side, much research connects high-unprocessedcarb, high-fibre diets (like vegetarian and vegan eating habits) to favourable long-term health benefits.
Enjoy Your Carbs
How should you approach carbs in your diet? “Rather than focus on one particular dietary component like carbohydrates, a better strategy would be to aim for a healthy overall dietary pattern,” says Malik. This would be a diet that emphasizes higher amounts of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (vegetable oils), and healthy proteins (nuts, legumes, eggs, seafood, and poultry) – while limiting bad carbs (such as refined grains and added sugars), red and processed meat, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats. “Combine this healthy dietary pattern with daily physical activity, and you have the best chance for maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing chronic diseases,” says Malik.
Additionally, the carbs provide energy necessary for vigorous exercise, so you may need extra carbs to prepare for strenuous workouts or endurance activities.