Are you considering limiting carbs from your diet? Take a look at what it actually means, and understand why it’s not practical.
By now, you’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve heard that “bread is bad”, “I’m avoiding bread”, or “I’m trying to cut out carbs.” Why are bread and other carbohydrates vilified in the dieting world? Unfortunately for carbohydrates, it’s the latest target for the diet industry.
With every decade, comes a new fad or trend that spreads like wildfire. This is nothing new.
With all the noise out there, let’s chat about carbohydrates for a moment, shall we? Here are three reasons why carbs are important to our body and why it’s not advised to eliminate them from your diet.
1. Your brain needs it.
Carbohydrates break down into glucose, the primary source of fuel for the brain. Common side effects of carb restriction are headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability. This is because the brain is being starved from glucose. Carbohydrates also play a role in our bodies production of serotonin, a chemical that nerve cells produce. Serotonin has many important functions including involvement in our cardiovascular system, mood regulation, sleep cycle, and bowel movements.
2. It’s an efficient energy source.
The muscles and liver store carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. Why? It’s because carbohydrates (glucose) is the quickest, most efficient fuel source for the body. Your body loves carbohydrates so much that it saves them up to protect you. These storage forms are used when you are engaging in physical activity or are in a fasting state (such as during sleep). If your glycogen reserves and fat stores become severely depleted, the body will begin breaking down the protein in your muscles into glucose units that it can use, through a process called gluconeogenesis.
3. It’s in everything.
Carbohydrates make up a huge group of foods, including: vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, milk, and yogurt. These foods are important sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. If we restrict them, we can run the risk for micronutrient deficiencies. The lack of fiber can also lead to digestive issues (hello, constipation) and a reduction of probiotics, aka the “good” bacteria in the gut.
Our bodies are designed to utilize a variety and balance of all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Additionally, if you look into any research studies on very-low carbohydrate diets (<50 gm/day), there are zero long-term studies (>2 years), and the attrition rate is significantly high in those that are at least 6 months.
Simply put: there is not enough long-term evidence to justify their safety or to recommend to the masses.
You also don’t need research to tell you that many struggle with being “on and off” low-carb diets throughout their life, chalking it up to not having the ‘willpower’ to stay on it. This is telling of the fact that our bodies do not enjoy being starved of carbs and that restrictive diets just don’t work long-term. Research has shown time and again that it’s the balanced variety of nutrient-dense foods is what will lead to better, sustainable health.
Food is eaten not only for functional purposes. It’s also meant to be pleasurable and enjoyable – it’s why we have taste buds. Can you imagine going the rest of your life, trying to eliminate or restrict such a huge food group? Why would we do this to ourselves when it is not necessary?
Before eliminating, tune into your body and ask why you would get rid of such a crucial source of energy, nutrients, and deliciousness?
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: NANNA MOILANEN
Lindsay Sparks, RDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Springfield, MO. In her private practice, she focuses on empowering others to embrace their bodies and live a life well-nourished. Through food, health at every size, and intuitive eating principles, she helps others cultivate meaningful, happy lives. Learn more about Lindsay at Feed Your Spark.