When trying to lose weight, many people cut out carbs. But this is a huge misconception, according to a top nutritionist.
Thanks to the rise of the Atkins diet decades ago and the Keto (high-fat low-carb) diet more recently, not to mention slogans like “No carbs before Marbs” gaining popularity through reality TV shows, many of us fear carbs.
But the science behind carbohydrates is actually very complex, and demonising an entire food group is not wise, Rhiannon Lambert, author of Re-Nourish, A Simple Way To Eat Well, explained to The Independent.
Refined and complex carbs are very different, and it’s important to distinguish between the two.
“Our brains can only process glucose for fuel efficiently and lots of studies conducted at respected universities and research centres have shown resistant starch (found in carbs) help you eat less, burn more calories, feel more energised and less stressed, and lower cholesterol,” Lambert says.
Of course, there are carbs and there are carbs – choose oatcakes over a pastry and you’ll be kept fuller longer and won’t have such a spike and drop in energy levels.
It is possible to eat carbs and lose weight, you just need to know the low-down.
1. Eat the right carbs
Let’s take potatoes as an example – Lambert calls them “a nutrition powerhouse”, full of fibre, filling and with a low energy density.
“On the other hand, potato chips, deep fried in oil, with salt and pepper and maybe even a dipping sauce. now you’ve got a highly fattening food that is easy to over-consume,” Lambert explains.
Instead of chips, she recommends roasting potato wedges with olive oil and rosemary for a healthy alternative.
2. Low-carb does not mean ketogenic
On a keto diet, you’d usually eat under 50 grams of carbs a day (which is a tiny amount), with a very high fat intake.
“Ketosis (switching from burning carbs to body fat) can be a highly beneficial metabolic state, especially for people with certain diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, epilepsy or obesity but this really is not the only way to do a ‘low-carb’ diet,” Lambert says.
Low-carb can be anything up to 100-150 grams of carbs per day, she explains, which can include several pieces of fruit a day and even small amounts of whole, starchy foods like potatoes.
3. Not all carbs are unhealthy sugar
There are many different types of sugar, including glucose, fructose and galactose.
But although starches like grains and potatoes get broken down into glucose in the digestive tract, raising blood sugar levels, the sugar in a potato is not the same as that of a chocolate bar.
“Whereas table sugar contains half glucose, half fructose, starch is only glucose,” Lambert explains. “It is the fructose portion of sugar that is the bit to be concerned about, starch (glucose) does not have the same effect inside the body. A balanced diet with portion control and complex carbohydrates can work well for weight loss.”
4. You can gain weight by eating a low-carb diet
When following a low-carb diet, many people turn to foods that are high in fat and calories – even the good fat in too large a portion can cause a problem with weight gain, Lambert points out.
“Portion sizes are crucial no matter what diet you follow,” she says. “Many low-carb foods can be fattening, especially for people who are prone to binge eating and have a history of fad diets.”
So yes, indulgent foods like cheese, nuts and cream can’t be mindlessly snaffled just because you’re on a low-carb diet – you could end up gaining weight as a result.
5. Energy and fibre matter
Lambert is an advocate of focussing on nutrients rather than numbers, it’s worth being aware that per gram, fat contains more calories than carbs and protein. Fat is 9 kcal per gram, carbs and protein are 4 kcal per gram, and alcohol is 7 kcal per gram.
Carbs also contain fibre which our bodies can’t digest – “Fibre actually gets to the bacteria in the intestine, which has the enzymes to digest it and can turn it into beneficial compounds, like the fatty acid butyrate,” Lambert says.
In other words, fibre is essential for a healthy gut, which has been linked to maintaining a healthy weight. Some studies have even shown that fibre, especially soluble fibre (like those found in oats), can lead to weight loss and improved cholesterol.
“Aim for a mix of vegetables and wholegrains in your diet to boost fibre consumption and drink plenty of water,” Lambert advises.
6. Carbs make you happy
Anyone who’s tried Atkins will probably agree that a life without carbs can make you tetchy, have mood swings and struggle to concentrate. It’s not fun. This is because carbs play an important role in creating serotonin, your happy hormone.
“One of the amino acids (building blocks of protein) tryptophan plays a key role in this,” Labert says. “It cannot cross the brain’s blood barrier and needs carbs to help it cross over.
“Tryptophan converts to serotonin and serotonin to melatonin, which is involved in our sleep cycle. Therefore, carbs make you happy and help you sleep, both of which are important factors for weight loss.”
7. Cutting carbs is unsustainable
Although some people experience initial weight loss from a no-carb diet, most can’t maintain it. “Fad diets don’t work,” Lambert says, adding that we should all be aiming for a clean, balanced diet.
“If you want to lose weight, look at portion control, a diet that is tailored to your needs, and up your exercise so that you’re burning off more calories that you eat. It’s that simple.”
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Choosing the right types of carbs for your high-protein, low-carb diet is the key. We enlist some foods that you may want to include in your diet to lose weight.
If your goal is to lose weight, please note that nutrition is extremely important. Eating the right amount and the right kind of nutrients are essential to lose weight. Of course, exercising is also important, but the foods that go into your body act as fuel to function better. So, if you are not loading up on the right nutrient, you are prone to be less energetic, further raising the chances of feeling lethargic during workout sessions. So, eating right is the key to lose weight. Most health experts suggest eating a low-carb and high-protein diet to shed extra kilos. A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates, such as those found in grains, starchy fruits and vegetables and other foods. It is said that a low-carb diet does not only help cut the bulge, it also helps reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A high-protein diet is in general suggested because protein forms the most important nutrient to lose weight. It helps build lean muscles, burn more calories, and keeps you fuller for longer, thereby, preventing hunger pangs.
Choosing the right types of carbs for your high-protein, low-carb diet is the key. We enlist some foods that you may want to include in your diet to lose weight.
Low-carb, high-protein foods for weight loss
1. Greek yogurt
Unsweetened and unflavoured Greek yogurt is high in protein content and has less carbs to offer. In fact, yogurts are high in fibre and low in calories, both of which are important aspects to lose weight, the healthy way.
Nothing can beat eggs when it comes to including a high-protein food in your diet. One large egg is enough to provide you a good amount of protein. It helps you keep fuller for longer, thus preventing overeating. Also, eggs make for great post-workout snacks that give you energy after a rigorous hour or two at the gym.
3. Cow’s milk
If you are looking to lose weight and do not want to skip a glassful of milk, then cow’s milk is the solution. A lighter and better alternative to buffalo’s milk, cow’s milk has high amount of protein along with other nutrients including potassium, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin B12, all of which are important for keeping healthy.
One of the best examples of high-protein and low-carb snacks is almonds. Research has suggested eating almonds regularly to lose weight. It is best to soak some almonds overnight and eat them first thing in the morning.
5. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are unsung heroes of any diet plan. They absorb about 10 times their weight, helping to keep you full for a longer period of time. In fact, this high-protein snack is high in healthy fat content and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which help lower inflammation, further helping you lose weight effectively.
Green peas are a great way to load up on protein. They add a healthy dose of carbohydrates to your meals. About a cupful of peas may have around eight grams of proteins.
Other foods include lentils, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, black beans, avocado, fish, pistachios, black beans etc. So include them into your daily diet and lose weight, the healthy way.
Think potatoes, pasta, and bread are fattening starchy carbs you need to avoid if you want fab abs? Think again. Despite what the Keto diet and other extremely low-carb weight loss programs might lead you to believe, you can enjoy carbs without derailing your diet.
A recent study from Stanford University shows that you can lose weight on any type of diet (low or high-carb). Neither strategy is superior: cutting either carbs or fats shaves off excess weight in about the same proportion. What’s more, the researchers found that neither insulin levels nor a specific genotype pattern could predict an individual’s success on either diet. What does determine success? Sticking with it.
Since staying on track is the key, if you’re a carb-lover, choosing a diet that includes your favorite carbs is a better strategy than banishing them altogether, feeling deprived, and then giving up.
Here’s how to keep your favorite carbs as part of your healthy eating plan:
A medium potato (5.3 oz) has just 110 calories, 2 grams fiber so it won’t make a dent in your daily calorie budget. Plus, they’re an excellent source of both vitamin C and potassium and are rich in B-vitamins. Potatoes are often considered a diet no-no because of how we eat them—as high-calorie french fries, potato chips and mashed with butter and gravy. If you enjoy potatoes baked, broiled or roasted and without the high-cal toppers, even the most conscious calorie-counters can fit potatoes into their diet.
If pasta is fattening, don’t tell the Italians who eat three times as much pasta per person than we do but are a lot less likely to be overweight or obese. Italians eat some 57 pounds per person per year compared to 19 pounds per person in the U.S., according to data from the International Pasta Organization, but only about 10% of Italian women are obese versus 36% in the U.S. Pasta is wrongly targeted as a diet wrecker due to the company it keeps—buttery, meaty, and cheesy sauces and the ginormous portions we eat.
Keep your pasta “skinny” by aiming for a 50/50 pasta-to-produce ratio. Great produce picks include tomatoes, roasted veggies, and dark leafy greens.
Also, try whole-wheat varieties that are made with a combination of durum wheat and other grains so fiber and protein are pumped up. Watch cooking times closely, as overcooking whole wheat can make noodles gummy. Of course, portion size always matters: stick to no more than two cups of cooked pasta to keep overall calories in check.
Many people feel that bread is their ultimate diet “don’t” – but not all breads are created equal when it comes to weight gain. A preliminary study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found that people who ate four or more ounces of white bread daily were more likely to become overweight or obese, but those who consumed whole-grain breads were not at increased risk for weight gain. According to surveys, less than 5% of Americans eat the recommended amount of whole grains, and most eat refined grains like white bread.
While bread is considered taboo for dieters, it’s also one of the carbs we crave most—especially when it’s fresh from the oven. So don’t try to banish bread from your diet, just choose the healthier whole-grain options. Also, enjoy bread with other foods—especially those with protein and fiber–to slow down the digestion of the carbs in bread. Look for whole-grain breads that have at least 2 grams and 3-4 grams protein per serving or “light” store-bought breads that are sliced thinner. (Generally they have about 50-60 calories per serving.)
Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University. She is dedicated to helping people have better health and live richer lives through sound nutrition and good lifestyle choices.
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Low-carb diets typically produce noticeable weight loss during the first few weeks, in part because limiting food choices generally leads to reduced calorie intake. Several popular diets — including the Atkins and Zone diets — are based on low-carbohydrate models. However, guidelines for low-carb diets vary, depending on the program you follow. Although when you start a low carb diet, you may lose more per week initially, 2 pounds is the maximum recommended rate of weight loss after the first few weeks.
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The amount of weight you lose each week on a low-carb diet depends on many factors. While you may see dramatic results during the first few weeks of your diet, much of this initial weight loss may be water weight. For good health, aim for no more than 2 pounds of weight loss a week.
Features of Low-Carb Diets
Low-carb diets typically limit carbohydrate intake to 50 grams to 150 grams daily. Since each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories, that translates to 200 to 600 calories from carbohydrates a day. The remainder of calories, then, must come from sources of protein and fat. A report from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains that low-carb guidelines vary by diet, but starchy carbs, such as grains and potatoes, are generally limited.
To stick to this diet, you'll need to choose mainly low-carb foods. In addition to grains and starchy vegetables, you'll want to avoid foods like dairy (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), fruit, and legumes, while on a low-carb diet. Even though these can be healthy options, they're not low-carb foods. Other good choices for low-carb foods include meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, avocado, most non-starchy vegetables, like leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower.
Weight Loss Per Week
The amount of weight you lose per week on a low-carb diet primarily depends on how your calorie consumption compares to your calorie expenditure. As with any diet, it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of body fat. Low-carb diets are diuretic, however, which accelerates weight loss at first because you lose water as well as fat. Other benefits to reducing your carb intake include an increased sense of satiety and reduced caloric intake. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains that because protein takes longer to digest, you generally feel full longer.
Although weight loss can vary, for most people following a low or no carb diet for two weeks will result in weight loss. Often, this is because high carb foods like sweets, chips, crackers and bread are off limits. If you have good results in the first two weeks on a no carb diet, you'll probably be motivated to continue. Eventually, those two weeks on a no carb diet can result in significant weight loss if it helps you to cut your ties with sweet and salty snacks.
Low-Carb Diet Precautions
Low-carb diets can have benefits for those with insulin resistance or diabetes, which are often related to being overweight. A January 2017 article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that they tend to promote weight loss and reduce blood glucose levels, at least in the short term. However, more long-term studies are needed to see if those benefits of eating a low-carb diet outweigh any downsides to limiting carbs.
Eating low carb also means you're also eating high protein or high fat (or both). One potential downside of that is the extra strain it might put on your body. If you have kidney or liver disease or diabetes, high levels of protein can be dangerous, explains MedlinePlus. In addition, depending on your food choices, limiting carbs may result in higher intakes of cholesterol and saturated fats, which can have an unfavorable effect on cholesterol levels in the long term.
Another thing to watch out for — diets that limit carbs too much can cause dizziness, dehydration, fatigue and irritability. If you have diabetes and take insulin or other glucose-lowering medications, you also run the risk of hypoglycemia. If you have any health issues or take medications, make sure you ask your doctor if a low-carb diet for weight loss is a good choice for you.
This article was co-authored by Claudia Carberry, RD, MS. Claudia Carberry is a Registered Dietitian specializing in kidney transplants and counseling patients for weight loss at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is a member of the Arkansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Claudia received her MS in Nutrition from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2010.
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Eating carbs while still losing weight is easy – in fact, it’s the best way to lose weight. Carbs give you energy that you’ll need to power your workouts and get through your day. Losing weight simply requires that you cut back on the volume of carbs (as well as the volume of fats and proteins) that you’ve been consuming. Avoid sugars and refined grains. Instead, incorporate lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Reduce your caloric intake. If you’re an average person, your insulin sensitivity is probably quite good, and you don’t need to make specific cuts to your carbohydrate intake over any other types of calories like fats. People gain weight when the calories they consume exceed the calories they need to maintain their physical functions.
- For instance, instead of drinking soda, drink water.
- Instead of eating a sandwich, try a wrap.
- Instead of eating a big bowl of pasta, eat a small bowl of pasta.
- Cut back on the total amount of calories you consume by incorporating low-calorie meals into your diet, such as salads.
- Typically, a diet that permits about 50 to 100 grams of carbs per day is ideal for people trying to lose weight while still consuming some carbs.  X Research source
Cut back on carbs without cutting them out entirely. People with poor insulin sensitivity will benefit from making specific cuts to their carbohydrate intake. If you are obese or overweight, or if you have a diagnosis of prediabetes, then you may have insulin sensitivity.
- You should speak to a doctor to confirm you have an insulin sensitivity.
Do not go on an extremely carb-restrictive diet. Specialty diets that radically restrict carbohydrate consumption – for instance, diets in which carb intake is less than 20 grams daily – often boomerang back on people and cause them to consume more carbs than they normally would.
- About 20% of your daily calories should be from protein (though you might need more if you are an athlete).
- No more than 30% of your daily calories should be derived from fat, and no more than 7% should be from saturated fat. No more than 1% of your daily calories should come from trans fat. Foods with partially hydrogenated oil also contain trans fats.
Exercise regularly. Losing weight while eating carbs is easier if you exercise. On average, you should exercise at least 2.5 hours per week to maintain your weight. To lose weight, you should exercise more than that.  X Trustworthy Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Main public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human Services Go to source
The extent to which you exercise should depend on your own baseline level of health and fitness, as well as your levels of motivation to lose weight.  X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world’s leading hospitals Go to source
Try to incorporate exercise into your daily rhythm. For instance, walk to the store instead of driving. Ride your bike to work instead of driving. Go for a walk with your family or pet.
- Perform both cardio and strength training exercises. You might plan on running, lifting weights, or riding your bike.
Be safe when dieting and exercising. Talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition. If you have a medical condition that could impact the effect of losing weight through a healthy mix of dietary adjustments and exercise – for instance, diabetes, heart disease, or arrhythmia – you should speak to your physician before embarking on a weight-loss diet.
Preparing food that’s delicious and healthful is as simple as keeping a well-stocked kitchen. From pantry staples to surprisingly healthy foods, here are the keys to making meals at home that taste incredible and are good for you.
With a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator and a little bit of know-how, making nutritious meals at home can be as simple as it is rewarding.
Buy the Right Quick-Meal Ingredients
Crushed tomatoes and marinara, says EA Stewart, M.B.A., R.D., are an easy way to add flavor to a meal. Marinara (look for brands made without added sugar) can be tossed over whole-wheat pasta and crushed tomatoes are great stirred into soups for a dose of lycopene, which may ward off cancer. To avoid BPA, look for tomatoes in glass jars or coated cardboard boxes.
Quick-cooking whole grains, like quinoa, bulgur wheat and polenta are nutritional powerhouses that are ideal for weeknights. Cook grains in organic chicken stock, and stir in minced green onions and a drizzle of lemon juice for an easy and delicious side dish. “If you don’t like the whole grain taste or texture right away, just mix a little with regular grain such as rice or pasta,” recommends Laura May-Roelse, a Dallas-based registered, licensed dietitian and private-practice nutrition consultant. For quick and healthy protein, says May-Roesle, beans and lentils are must-haves to keep on hand. Instead of buying canned beans, cook a big pot of dry beans on Sunday afternoon. Throughout the week, toss beans with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve over mixed greens, stir into soup, or puree with a bit of chicken stock and olive oil and serve under chicken or fish.
“We eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Stewart. The possibilities with a carton of eggs are manifold, from poached and served over lentils to frittatas. Filled with vegetables and baked with little or no oil, frittatas are an easy supper and a great way to clean out the fridge. “Plus, the leftovers are ideal for breakfast or a quick snack the next day,” Stewart adds.
Adding vegetables to every meal can sometimes be a challenge. May-Roesle recommends pre-chopping veggies when you bring them home so they require little to no prep time when you’re cooking. “And don’t forget about frozen vegetables,” she says. “They are frozen just after harvest, so they’re very fresh.”
Stock up on Easy-to-Grab Snacks
For guilt-free snacking, popcorn kernels (look for organic if you prefer to avoid GMOs) are a quick and easy way to satisfy a craving for something salty, Stewart says. Place 1/4 cup of kernels in a small brown paper bag and fold bag twice, creasing to seal. Microwave on high for 2 or 3 minutes, or until there are 5 second between pops. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Get creative by sprinkling with dried herbs, grated parmesan cheese or Cajun seasoning.
Whole-wheat tortillas can be an invaluable item in your refrigerator for snacking. Cut into wedges, brush with vegetable oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and a bit of sugar — or salt and smoked paprika — and bake until crisp. Or, spread with a thin layer of peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese, top with sliced fruit and roll for an easy-to-eat bite.
“Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and filled with probiotics, makes for an easy, nutritious snack,” says Stewart. Stir in no-sugar-added, natural applesauce or a drizzle of honey to sweeten it up.
Fill a large, resealable container with sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, carrots, sliced red peppers and raw or lightly steamed broccoli spears. Keep in the refrigerator next to a small container of low-fat cottage cheese blended with curry powder, a bit of salt and dried herbs. Dip the crudités in the cottage cheese, refilling the containers throughout the week.
Buy Healthy Add-ins.
If you like to make breakfast smoothies, Stewart recommends tossing in a few handfuls of mild greens, such as spinach or kale, for a big dose of phytonutrients. Flax seeds, ground into meal, add fiber and heart-healthy omega-3s. Stir into your morning cereal or oatmeal, toss into smoothies or even in pancake batter. Heart-healthy nuts are a great way to dress up simple dishes, says May-Roelse. Rich in vitamin E, cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, fiber and omega-3s, nuts are nutrition packed and delicious as salad toppers, stirred into brown rice or blended into nut butter for sandwiches.
Be Aware of Hidden Calories
“Always use heart-healthy oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil and high oleic sunflower oil,” says EA Stewart, R.D. Stewart also recommends flavorful oils like toasted sesame oil and walnut oil for drizzling onto finished dishes. Pots, pans and other tools can be just as important as the ingredients. A food processor allows you to make healthy dips and purees, and a good blender is essential for fruit-packed smoothies. A nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet allows searing and sautéing with little to no oil.
With a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator and a little bit of know-how, making nutritious meals at home can be as simple as it is rewarding.
Sip Into Something Cool
Plain water be darned! Avoid excess sugar and stay hydrated by sipping these healthy drinks.
Sparkling water “Add a splash of 100-percent fruit juice, and it’s like a natural soda,” says EA Stewart, M.B.A., R.D. Stick to seltzer and naturally sparkling water, as club soda can contain sodium.
Herbal Tea Make a pitcher of herbal tea and keep refrigerated for a flavorful, refreshing beverage. Use tea bags, or steep your own with fresh mint, lemongrass stalks, sliced citrus fruit and even dried (organic) rose petals.
Flavored Water Place sliced fruit or herbs in a pitcher of ice water to give it a subtle flavor, encouraging you to drink more. For a spa-like sip, combine sliced limes; peeled, sliced cucumbers, and a few sprigs of mint. For a fruity treat, try fresh raspberries and sliced strawberries. For a tart tonic, squeeze the juice of one lemon and one lime in the water, then add fresh orange slices.
Green Juice A daily glass of green juice can provide you with a big dose of vitamins and minerals. Try mild greens, such as spinach or kale. Add cucumbers and a half of an apple or some watermelon for sweetness.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a fat-free and low-fat diet trend. Bodybuilders avoided fat when dieting down. Snack foods started carrying the low or no fat label to improve sales. The worst part was the increase in refined sugar use.
Americans heard “fats are bad,” so they assumed carbs were good. There are two problems with this: fat is not bad. It’s necessary to balance your hormones and keep your heart in good health via omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The other problem: the nation took the carbs are good statement way over the top and starting eating loads of sugar.
We rode the crest of the wave with carbs back then; now we’re in the trough. Everything is about low-carb today. The ketogenic diet has exploded. Even fruit has been demonized.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Nope, apples are bad because carbs” -Ketogenic Dieters
I don’t know about you, but statements like that are an obvious red flag to me.
My issue with low-carb dieting stems from two main things.
1. Low carb diets typically promote increased fat intake
This is detrimental to big eaters who are trying to lose weight — 1g of carbs is 4 calories and 1g of fat is 9 calories. What’s even worse? Fat elicits the smallest metabolic response by far. Only about 5% of the calories consumed from fat are burned via the thermogenic effect of digestion.
Carbs though? Carbs can burn up to 25% of the calories they contain simply through digestion. It’s the fibrous and complex carbs that accomplish this. Do the math. That means smart carb choices will only net 3 calories at the end of the day, while the same amount of fat nets 8.55 calories. That’s almost 3 times as many calories you get from fat! So, by the gram, carbs have fewer than half the calories fat has AND, when chosen smartly, can burn more than twice the amount of calories by simply digesting them. So why does everyone go low-carb to lose weight? I don’t know man. Carbs are good.
Well, that’s only half true. I do know why people go low carb: because it produces fast “results.” Cut out carbs, and you WILL lose weight fast. I can’t lie.
The problem: that weight is not fat and will immediately return as soon as you eat a sodium-filled, high-carb cheat meal. So, unless you never want to eat carbs again, that weight is going to come back (just as fast as it came off) and it’s going to be disappointing since you will have thought you lost weight.
The explanation: that weight you lost was simply your body depleting itself of glycogen (your body’s means of storing carbohydrate in the muscle). Stop eating carbs and these stores deflate. In other words, you have just as much fat on you whether you are glycogen-depleted or not; I don’t care how much the number on the scale goes down.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll be mentally cloudy and grumpy since your brain functions almost entirely on carbohydrates. Not to mention you will feel physically weak and sluggish since your muscles will be running on fumes.
The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. Keep reading for the explanation.
2. People like and crave carbs
How do you expect to stick to your diet for any decent length of time if you cut out all of your favorite foods?
If you’re losing weight, your body is going to crave foods. The best approach, in my opinion, is to incorporate those foods you crave just a little bit every day. Yes, that means eating a cookie if you’re dying for a cookie. Otherwise, cheat day is going to hit and you’re going to down two and a half boxes of Oreos because “it doesn’t count.”
Ever hear that your body can’t process all the calories you consume on cheat day? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The human body is incredibly efficient in fact. Believe me, I’ve eaten 10,000+ calories on multiple occasions (the silly things I do to get views on Youtube…) and you bet I gained 2-3 pounds each time after the initial bloating went away.
Fortunately, I know how weight loss works so losing that weight is easy. How does it work? Well, I already said: by burning more calories than you consume. Forget the whole cutting carbs thing. Think about it like this. Calories are energy. The first law of thermodynamics states energy cannot be created or destroyed. If you eat X calories, you either burn them via physical activity or store them via fat storage.
If you are engaging in physical activity and the number of calories you consumed was insufficient to supply the energy you needed to perform that activity, guess where your body gets the extra energy it needs? The energy stored on itself, AKA your fat stores.
I’ll say it one more time to drill it into your head: you have to be eating in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
In fact, you can lose weight eating Twinkies and Doritos. Don’t believe me? Look up the Twinkie diet. A nutrition professor at Kansas State University, Mark Haub, ran an experiment on himself to prove the point that calories determine weight loss. He restricted himself to 1800 calories daily for 10 weeks eating only Twinkies and Doritos. The result? He lost 27 lbs, decreased his LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) by 20%, and increased his HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) by 20%. Guess what Twinkies and Doritos are primarily composed of? Carbs. If someone told you that carbs are the key to weight loss, they lied.
I’m not saying to eat like he did – at least not for every meal. Despite improvements in his LDL and HDL cholesterol, Twinkies and Doritos are obviously not healthy foods. He went to an extreme to prove the commonly overlooked law of weight loss: you must be burning more energy than you are consuming in order to lose weight that stays off.
I suggest increasing your healthy carb intake: fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, whole grain breads and pastas. Not only will this kill your cravings, promoting diet longevity and consistency. It will allow you to eat more at the end of the day.
Why do we take diet to extremes?
Avoid carbs. Avoid fats. What ever happened to eating a balanced diet?
It’s all because people want results fast. Nobody wants to exercise. Nobody wants to diet. Nobody wants to work to lose weight. They overlook the fact that it took them years to pack on the extra 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds and think they’re going to lose it in a couple weeks. While it won’t take years to lose that weight (if done right), it’s going to take months.
I know this article will get a bad rap from some low-carb dieters out there because people simply cannot accept that their way isn’t the best way. I never said low-carb doesn’t work. My issue is that low-carb dieters will tell me it’s the only thing that works.
The one and only requirement you need to lose weight is this: eat fewer calories than you burn.
Yes, you read that right. This one easy change actually helped me lose 15-plus pounds.
2018 was a busy one. Work was crazy, my husband and I adopted a puppy, and I had seven weddings to attend, two of which I was in, which meant bachelorette parties, bridal showers and more. It was a very exciting and super-busy year! My schedule was packed and it took its toll on my health. I was stressed out, I wasn't exercising, sleeping all that great or making healthy eating a priority, and I had all these extra opportunities to eat and drink just a bit more than my body needed. With that, came 15 extra pounds, a little more stress and a bad attitude.
To be honest, I was so disappointed that I'd taken such bad care of myself by prioritizing everything but my health that I couldn't muster the motivation to do anything about it. (Sound familiar?) But as the year came to a close, I did find my way back to some healthy habits, but nothing drastic. I was spending a little more time in the kitchen, trying out new dinner ideas here and there and doing some simple meal prep for work lunches (I count chopping up a head of romaine as meal prep, FYI), which, as the meal plan editor here at EatingWell, is both my job and something I enjoy doing.
The months carried on and at some point I noticed my pants were not as tight as they used to be. I hopped on the scale and was down more than just a few pounds—15 to be exact. Like, what? It seemed like a lot for not doing all that much. I still wasn't exercising, keeping track of calories (not that I'd ever do that anyway), making drastic changes to what I was eating or giving up my nightly glass (or two) of red wine. But, still, I had lost weight. I thought back on the past months and the only thing that had really changed was that I was eating more carbs—specifically high-fiber whole grains.
Why Eating More Carbs Helped Me Lose Weight
Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and whole-wheat pasta, are carbohydrate-rich foods packed with fiber. Fiber has many amazing health benefits, from boosting gut bacteria to decreasing diabetes risk and, in my case, making it easier to lose weight. Fiber-rich carbs, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, help to fill you up and keep you feeling full for longer. Fiber is indigestible, so it takes your body a while to pass it through your digestive system, helping to maintain that full feeling. And, interestingly, fiber can bind with some of the glucose and fat in foods, meaning you pass those calories out with the fiber, rather than absorbing them.
What I Ate to Lose Weight
I was making this one recipe a ton, the Rainbow Veggie Spring Roll Bowl—mainly because of the oh-so-delicious peanut sauce you drizzle on top—and subbing in brown rice for the rice noodles to give the meal an extra fiber boost. I was eating a variation of this chopped salad bowl often for lunch or dinner, mixing up the veggies and dressing and eventually switching from brown rice to quicker-cooking bulgur (like in the recipe pictured above), which also delivered more protein. Some weeks, I only got as far as making a big pot of bulgur to throw in whatever I was bringing for lunch or to serve alongside dinner. And at some point, for no particular reason other than it tasted good, I started adding granola to my breakfast yogurt, which I noticed not only made me enjoy my breakfast more, but also helped carry me through to lunch.
It's not like I was avoiding whole grains before this (or any type of carb, for that matter), but I certainly wasn't eating as much. These two changes—eating granola and some other kind of whole grain every day—upped my daily fiber intake by roughly 12 grams (about half of the recommended 30 grams), helping to bring my weight back down. Now, this is not new news. Research has shown us time and time again how effective fiber can be for weight loss and overall health and in order to get more fiber, you need to be eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils—all the more reason to avoid low-carb diets like keto and Whole30 that call to exclude those otherwise healthy foods.
How I Lost Even More Weight
If I'm being honest, the 15 pounds I gained that summer was on top of a few extra pounds that I had been slowly gaining since college. So, after that initial 15-pound loss that really felt effortless, I was motivated to keep the momentum going and was able to lose even more weight in the months that followed—about another 15 pounds, and have since kept it off. And while eating more high-fiber whole grains definitely played a key role, life also calmed down and with it so did my stress levels. The result? More energy for cooking and exercise (specifically walking my neighborhood, puppy by my side), plus way better sleep!
The Bottom Line
Beyond just losing weight, I felt better all-around. I was more regular and had fewer days where I felt bloated and uncomfortable, I had more energy during the day (especially after lunch), and I was in a much better mood. I know life will always have its ups and downs and I'm guaranteed to have even harder years ahead. But knowing I can rely on eating more fiber-rich carbs as a strategy to stay healthy—in addition to making it a priority to stress less and stay active when I can—makes it all seem much less intimidating. If you're looking to lose weight, instead of hard-to-follow and restrictive diets like keto and whole30, I highly encourage you to try adding in more high-fiber whole grains and other high-fiber foods. And remember—healthy weight loss is 1- to 2-pounds per week. If you lose too much too quickly, you're likely to gain that weight back.
Healthy Ways to Eat More Carbs Each Day
If you're looking to lose weight, improve your gut health, ward off diabetes, heart disease and more, rather trying to eat less (or cutting out entire food groups altogether), focus instead on eating more of the foods that deliver good-for-you fiber. Try these recipes (some of my personal favorites) and give meal prep a chance, if you're not already doing so.
The dilemma of whether to leave out carbs or not from your meals to lose weight has existed for ages. In recent years, diets like keto are becoming popular every day, making people believe that this is the only way to burn those extra fats. But this isn’t true. Carbs were never the enemy. In fact, carbs are a vital macronutrient that provides the energy required for maintaining bodily functions and carrying out daily activities. In fact, carbs can actually help you to lose weight. Are you getting a little confused at this point? Wondering how?
How can carbs help in losing weight? Well, the secret is to eat complex carbohydrates instead of refined ones. Complex carbs will make you feel full for a long time whereas refined carbs will make you hungrier. We brought you a few methods for including carbs in your diet so you can devour delicious meals while still losing weight. Love having your favorite beer bread and jam in the morning? Can’t enjoy those movie nights without pizzas? All you need to think of is how you pair up those carbs. Choosing the right grains is important as well. So, stop starving yourself to death and trim your body by eating all your favorite foods following these strategies below.
Don’t Be Afraid of Toppings
You might be pondering diet-friendly pizzas, but you will be surprised to know that a fully loaded pizza will help with your weight loss whereas a plain cheese pizza won’t. It turns out that as you add protein to your pizza, your Glycemic Index (GI) reduces. This is a measure of how quickly your blood glucose levels rise when you have food on a scale of 0 to 100. The lower you can keep this score, the better your chance for weight loss.
Whole grains come from a family of complex carbohydrates that has a lower score on the GI scale. If you want to further reduce this GI load, start adding protein to your meals. Proteins will slow down your digestion and make you feel fuller, keeping your blood sugar steady. Apart from protein, fat can also reduce this score, but they would add way more calories as well.
Make Drinking Green Tea a Habit
Nothing can be more soothing than a cup of green tea after a high-carb meal . Green tea helps wash down heavy food and research shows that an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, found in this tea, can help to regulate your hunger hormones by combining with the carbohydrates. They also do wonders in maintaining healthy metabolism in your body by lowering your blood sugar level.
Berries Are Not Just Delicious
Munching fresh berries can slow your digestion and increase the absorption of starch from your meals. A study shows that having berries like blueberries or strawberries with bread can reduce your blood sugar level by 36% when compared to eating bread without the berries. Having a mixture of berries like cranberries, bilberries, strawberries, and blueberries can further reduce the glycemic index by 38%. Researchers found out that the result comes from the polyphenols present in these berries, and encourage diets with a moderate amount of low glycemic index carbs to help regulate your weight.
Stop Drinking and Start Eating
You might think that eating some fresh apples instead of an apple pie or muffin is going to eliminate the carbs from your diet, but that isn’t the case. There are carbs in all fruits or vegetables; in fact, the apple you just ate has more carbs than two slices of bread. But the problem arises when you make juice out of it. This is because juicing removes the fibers from the fruit which helps you feel full. As a result, you will feel much hungrier than if you had eaten the fruit instead of drinking it. Researchers have found out that liquid carbohydrates are 17% less filling when compared to solid carbs.
Add Fat to Lose Fat
Who doesn’t love butter? But is it a carb? No, it isn’t. Researchers have found out that including monounsaturated fat in your meals can help your stomach feel full, reducing your overall calorie intake. You can find these fats in avocados and olive oil. But keep in mind that not any fat will do. Studies have shown that toasting your bread with monounsaturated fat like olive oil increases satiety hormones by 23% when compared to having bread with butter. Other research shows the same satiety result on people who have their meal with fresh avocados; they have a 40% reduced desire to eat for hours after.
You might find this odd but having your carbs cold can help you lose weight. Start eating your pasta straight out of the fridge because the lowered temperature changes the properties of the noodles into something called resistant starch. What this means is that your body needs to work harder now to digest it. Some other natural resistant starches include peas, lentils, beans, and oatmeal. They pass through your small intestine without getting digested, which keeps your stomach full for a long time. Cold pasta resembles the structure of these natural resistants. A recent study found out when you add resistant starch like beans, peas, and lentils to your evening meal, this increases your satiety hormones by almost 51%, reducing the activity of your hunger hormones by 15% compared to any simpler carbs included in your diet.
Good News for Night Owls
If you are a night owl and love munching on midnight snacks then there is good news for you. A recent study shows that people who have carbs in the evening or later can lose up to 27% more body fat than those who take their carbs in the daytime. This is because the nighttime carb eaters feel 13.7% fuller than those who are on their regular diet. Not only this, the inflammation markers decreased by 27.8% whereas it reduced to only 5.8% in the regular dieters. So start swapping your morning bagels and toasts with omelets and add french fries to your evening snack.
Carbs Can Even Be Your Best Friend
Exercise is the other part of the equation when it comes to weight loss. And the most preferred fuel when exercising is carbohydrates. Even if your body gets fat-adapted, you would still need some carbs to get that instant energy during high-intensity workouts. The body cannot burn fat as quickly as it can burn carbohydrates. Just opt for the right carbs instead of trying to get rid of them.
Avoiding bananas, beans and bread because of the keto diet or any other weight-loss fad you're following? If you're limiting carbs in this way, you might be taking the wrong dietary approach.
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The trouble with "cutting carbs" to lose weight is that we're lumping all sources of carbohydrates into one group.
Beans and gummy bears are both carbs but are far from the same when it comes to their nutritional value. Same goes for a candy bar and a banana: Both are a source of carbohydrates but they offer up very different macro and micronutrients.
As it is, whole grains and fruit account for less than 10 percent of our diet, per a September 2019 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The question is, what's happening in the other 90 percent of our diet? A big chunk — about 42 percent — of the portion of our diet that's not devoted to whole grains and fruits is made up of low-quality carbs, such as sugary cereal and white bread. These are the sources of carbohydrates that we need to limit in our diets when it comes to our weight and overall health, not fruit and whole grains.
Here, good-for-you carbs that'll fill you up and deliver nutrients, along with carbs to avoid.
6 Carbs to Add When You're Trying to Lose Weight
This goes for all potatoes — red skinned, purple, sweet and the regular ol' white potato. Yes, that one too.
When it comes to healthy potato options, sweet potatoes often overshadow white spuds because of their rich orange color, which is an indication of their beta-carotene content. White potatoes are well, white, which we often associate with meaning a lack of nutrients, in addition to our antiquated "must avoid all white carbs" line of thinking.
But all potatoes are a source of good-for-you carbohydrates.
For starters, they're nutrient-dense. A medium potato (with skin) has just 118 calories and one gram of sugar while providing 3 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams of fiber, 20 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 24 percent DV of vitamin B6 and 11 percent DV of folate, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
When it comes to weight loss, potatoes are unique from many other foods in that they contain resistant starch, per a February 2020 narrative review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This specific type of fiber may decrease the number of calories we process and increase satiety, along with other health benefits. One trick is cooking and then cooling a potato, like with a potato salad. This increases the amount of resistant starch.
Learn how to fill your plate with healthy, nutrient-dense foods by logging your meals on the MyPlate app. Download now to fine-tune your diet today!
Oatmeal is one of the first things to go when you start following a low-carb/keto diet and this isn't just unnecessary, it can be counterproductive if you're trying to lose weight.
Like potatoes, oats also contain a unique compound called beta-glucan. A growing body of research indicates that beta-glucan suppresses our appetite and increases our satiety, as reported in a paper published in Appetite in August 2018. Researchers of the study compared the effects of breakfast with beta-glucan versus one without. The group filling up on beta-glucan in the a.m. felt fuller afterwards, compared to the other non-beta-glucan group.
This one always seems to surprise. Yes, popcorn is a healthy source of carbs — it's even a whole grain.
But choose wisely. A serving (about 3 cups) of air-popped popcorn has just 92 calories and 1 gram of fat while providing 19 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber, per the USDA. But that same size serving of movie theater popcorn has 276 calories, 25 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 13 grams of carb and 2 grams of fiber, according to the USDA. Keep in mind, a small order of movie popcorn has 735 calories (!).
This makes (air-popped) popcorn a healthy and weight-loss-friendly snack. Women consume about 420 calories of snacks per day and men consume about 585 calories, according to the USDA. When snacking accounts for nearly 30 percent of your total intake, it pays to make it count by noshing on healthier options.
4. Whole-Grain Bread
Bread has been demonized by low-carb enthusiasts but it's important to keep in mind that all bread is not created equal — there's bread that is whole-grain and then there's refined. Whole grain means the entire grain is intact, ensuring you're getting all of the fiber and nutrients. A refined grain has been stripped of at least one of its three parts, usually the bran and germ, which removes some of the fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.
When you lump all grains together while cutting out carbs, you're doing yourself a disservice, especially when it comes to weight loss. Whole grains, which definitely include whole-grain bread, may give a modest boost to your metabolism, per a March 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.