Why cutting carbs is not the solution to losing weight

Almost anyone who has ever tried to lose weight has attempted the low-carb diet... but is it the way to go?

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya News
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Almost anyone who has ever tried to lose weight has attempted the low-carb diet. In recent years, carbs have been vilified for causing weight gain and deemed unnecessary to the body. As a result, many people today avoid pasta, rice, bread and potatoes like the plague. Sure, you will lose weight if you deprive yourself of a whole food group, but is it the optimal route to take?

For years, our bodies have depended on all three macronutrients to function properly: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Each macronutrient plays an essential role in our health, and by cutting out any one we would be pushing against our body’s natural functions.

When we cut out carbs from our diet, the body no longer has sugar as a source of fuel, so we force it to switch to a state of ketosis. During ketosis, the body begins to use ketones, derived from fat in our body, as a source of fuel. Although it sounds appealing, the problem with ketones is that they are acidic to your body, and are neither the preferred path nor the most efficient one in producing energy. As a result, eating a low-carb diet comes hand in hand with ailments.

Following a low-carb diet can leave you feeling drained. Carbs are our main and most efficient source of fuel. When we eat them, we break them down into simple sugars during digestion. This sugar is then absorbed into our blood stream and used for energy.

Our body also stores carbs as glycogen in our muscles, which in turn powers them. That means the more active you are, the more carbs you will need and the more a low-carb diet will take a toll on your overall energy levels. Most people should follow a diet of 50 percent carbs.

Most people think it is no big deal if they stop eating carbs, but any diet that asks you to cut out a whole food group is a red flag because you will also be cutting out the vitamins and minerals that go along with it.

Carbs are one of the best sources of B vitamins, which play an important role in your metabolism. B vitamins help convert the food you eat into fuel, allowing you to burn off the fat and keeping you energized. Carbs contain folate, another B vitamin, which helps keep your blood strong and is especially important for women in their childbearing years. The best food sources of B vitamins are beans, whole grains, potatoes and tempeh.

A healthy bowel is the combination of three main factors: drinking plenty of water, regular exercise, and ingesting sufficient fiber. Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, are mainly found in carbs, so followers of the low-carb diet tend to be constipated. Fiber also reduces your risk of heart disease, and can help manage your weight.

However, not all carbs are created equal. Focus on complex carbs such as whole-grain bread, bran cereal, beans, brown rice, oatmeal and bulgur, which are packed with fiber.

There seems to be a strong connection between carbs and mood. The link between the two is serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone.” Eating a carb-rich diet can help keep serotonin levels elevated in your brain, similar to the way many antidepressants are designed.

If you follow a low-carb diet you stop regulating serotonin, leaving your mood imbalanced and making you irritable. It is important to get the recommended dietary allowance of 130g of carbs per day. Visit your local nutritionist to learn how to reach that target.

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