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Should I go low CARB? (Macros part 4)


It seems that the low-carb trend is still not dying yet so here's a quick bit of info on why we need carbohydrates in our diet. Clue: they're not all equal!


Simple vs Complex

Carbohydrates consist of individual (e.g. glucose), or chains of (e.g. starch) sugar units. This is the difference between ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ carbohydrates, or high/low GI foods.


The complex carbohydrates consist of long chains of glucose molecules, so they take more time to be digested and absorbed, whereas the simple carbohydrates are absorbed much quicker into the blood stream and can cause steeper spikes in blood sugar levels.


Therefore, eating a croissant (simple carb) is very different to eating wholegrains (complex carb).


Combining carbohydrates with a protein-rich source can further slow the release of sugar into the blood by delaying the emptying of the stomach, and helping to stabilise blood sugar levels, such as adding silken tofu to fruit smoothies (try it- you won't taste the flavourless silken tofu!), combining lean chicken with rice, or adding yoghurt to berries & porridge.


Carbs provide our primary energy source, so we thrive on a carbohydrate-rich diet. Think wholegrains, beans, vegetables, fruit, but also include some of those healthy fats and protein-dense plant foods I mentioned in the previous 2 posts. Go easy on the simple carbs which cause blood sugar spikes such as white bread, croissants, some breakfast cereals, cakes & biscuits etc.


A carb-rich diet also provides us with ample fibre, which I will talk more about in another post.


When people say go 'low-carb', or 'cut out' carbs, they usually don't mean all carbs, they mean simple carbs, and sometimes they mean wholegrains too which is not a great plan! This is where it gets confusing.


Applying ketogenic diets (low-carb, high-fat) to otherwise healthy individuals who want to lose weight is not a healthy approach mentally or physically for weight loss. Initial weight loss on a low-carb diet can be attributed to fluid loss due to the reduction of glycogen stores, and not necessarily fat loss. A better approach would be a calorie-restricted, high-carbohydrate diet, selecting quality sources such as complex carbs for the majority of the dietary intake.


We are anatomically designed (read a great explanation here) to eat a varied carb-heavy diet, not one very high in animal fat and protein and low in plants. Our brain is powered by glucose, the beneficial bacteria in our guts feed on starch and fibre, I could go on..... a low-carb diet will cause collateral damage elsewhere.


What I'm trying to say is, yes, cut down on those croissants (although technically they are high-fat, not just high simple-carb), the sweets, the chocolate and crisps, the chips etc. But please don't exclude starchy veggies like potatoes and whole grains, fruit, or other vegetables. These foods will make you THRIVE!


If a ketogenic diet helps people to lose weight, it is because of a calorie deficit (perhaps achieved more easily through the eating discomfort commonly experienced on this type of diet), and not because of the macronutrient ratios. I've said it before and I will say it again, it is a calorie excess that leads to weight gain, NOT the ratio of macronutrients.


Why do I always end up talking about weight loss? I get a lot of clients ask me about weight loss even when their initial aims are unrelated symptoms. I think it's something that often triggers change in people so something I often get asked about. The catalyst for converting their health. But weight loss shouldn't be everyone's goal and your weight does not necessarily determine your inner health. We'll delve into this later.

 

To learn more about nutrition and how it effects your health, sign up to my mailing list here to stay up to date. This post is part 4 of a series about Macros.

For a tailored nutritional plan that suits your specific macronutrient needs, book a consultation today. Head over to the booking page here for more information.


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