Carbohydrates Are Not The Enemy- Our Diet Is

We constantly hear people talk about how they want to eat a low carbohydrate diet or “cut the carbs” but why? There is such a negative idea around the word “carbohydrates” causing people to forget why they are important to our bodies everyday. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source to our bodies for everyday activities giving us the energy we need to continue throughout the day. A diet without carbohydrates will allow an individual to loose weight quickly but it will also leave them feeling tired, drained, frustrated and wanting to binge on foods high in carbohydrates and fat such as fries.

What happens when we consume very low carbohydrates?

Plain and simple, our bodies will go into fasting/starvation mode when we stop eating or severely restrict carbohydrates over a period of time. We will begin to break down fat and protein to gain the necessary fuel we need through a process called fat metabolism. Ketones will be formed in the liver and released within the blood stream and when no glucose is available the ketones will become our energy source. Appetites at this point begin to be suppressed and weight will be lost. Restricting carbohydrates can lead to decreased thyroid output, decreased testosterone, impaired mood and cognitive function, muscle catabolism and suppressed immune function. For people who especially go to the gym or are active, they will be unable to sustain themselves on a highly restricted carbohydrate diet. If prolonged starvation occurs and the appetite is suppressed, the individual may not have a significant amount of food intake. This may result in the body breaking down protein in muscle causing a decrease in lean muscle mass and body wasting to gain energy.

Carbohydrates are not the reason for weight gain poor choices are:

Carbohydrates are in a wide variety of foods that we consume everyday including fruit and vegetables but the majority of carbohydrates come from our grain products within North American Food Guides. In North America we follow the plate method which splits our plate up into three sections. 50% of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, 25% of the plate should include lean protein and only 25% of your plate will be grain products. Over consumption is a huge problem within North America and sometimes people can not recognize they are doing it. For an example a pasta dinner is very common meal choice. People will enjoy a full plate and sometimes go for seconds. According to the plate method it is recommend we are to only consume 25% of our plates with grain products not 100% contributing to weight gain. Yes pasta has carbohydrates that will contribute to weight gain if you over indulge but so will fat and protein; they key is to eat the recommended portion. Sometimes it just is easier to blame carbohydrates for our behaviours but we need to really start to educate ourselves on the facts. For every additional 3500 calories consumed our body will gain 1lb of fat. One gram of carbohydrates or protein offer four calories and one gram of fat offers nine calories, the numbers can add up quickly if we are constantly eating larger portions or consuming junk food high in fat and sugar.

Tips for Success

Grain Products from the North American Food Guides do not only include bread, pasta or rice it can include other amazing options such as quinoa, bulgur, barley or oats that are lower in carbohydrates and offer protein, fibre and other great nutrients. Do not be afraid to change it up but always reference the Food Guide to ensure the correct amount of servings are consumed. If bread is your weakness no problem, try to choose whole grain bread over white processed bread. This will decrease carbohydrates, calories and increase the amount of fibre and protein to make you feel satisfied for longer.

Do not hate carbohydrates, they are not the enemy. Remember our bodies need carbohydrates as an important energy source to keep us moving throughout the day. Follow the North American Food Guides to avoid over consumption or intake of foods that have no real nutritional value to our bodies such as junk food. If you are gaining weight, try to track your food intake and compare your plate to the North American Food Guides to ensure all recommended values are on target. For Any questions concerning the Food Guide visit the following sites:

Health Canada website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca OR

United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov