Are you unsuccessfully trying to lose weight by cutting out carbs?
With such a huge focus on eliminating carbohydrates in the health world today, many of us are left to believe that consuming less will help us lose weight. Despite their plentiful health benefits, we’ve become scared of eating fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense whole foods simply because of their carbohydrate content. While eliminating carbs entirely may work for some people, for the rest of us this an unsustainable and unenjoyable way of living.
The good news? It is possible to include carbs in our daily diet without the fear of gaining weight!
All carbs are not created equal and all carbs do not lead to weight gain. The key is to understand the difference. While complex carbohydrates help us thrive optimally, simple processed carbohydrates provoke weight gain. Therefore, it’s time to stop concerning ourselves with establishing a low-carb diet and time to start to concerning ourselves with establishing a balanced diet free of processed carbs. Here’s why!
In the body, all carbohydrates break down into sugar, or glucose. But not all carbohydrates cause the same chemical reactions within the body.
Why we want to avoid processed carbohydrates:
Processed carbs are stripped of all fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so they’re sent directly into the bloodstream when consumed. This drastically spikes our blood sugar and releases high levels of insulin, which switches us from our fat burning mode to our fat storing mode. As a result, the processed carbs we consumed are stored as excess body fat and are not used as fuel.
Insulin works to balance our blood sugar. When we experience a sugar spike, insulin overcompensates by removing too much sugar from the bloodstream, resulting in low blood sugar. This tricks our brain into falsely believing we’re still hungry. We then reach for more processed carbs, eat more calories than what our body actually needs, and gain unwanted weight!
“All carbs are not created equal and all carbs do not lead to weight gain.”
Just as sugar is dangerously addictive, simple carbohydrates are as well. They have a strong impact on the reward center in our brain.
Carbs provoke the release of dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure. Consuming processed carbs leads to high amounts of dopamine releasing in the brain. If consumed too regularly, the brain becomes accustomed to this and “needs” simple carbs in order to feel satisfied.
And so the addiction begins!
Why complex carbohydrates are different:
While complex carbohydrates still break down as sugar in the body, they’re processed much differently than simple carbohydrates. They’re packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals which helps slows down the digestion process and keep blood sugar levels in balance by entering the bloodstream more slowly.
Without drastically spiking our blood sugar, secreting dopamine in the brain and releasing high levels of our fat storing hormone, we feel full and satisfied after eating and no longer feel addicted to unhealthy foods!
Our Top 7 Tips for Consuming Carbs
1. Stay away from processed carbohydrates
We all know we should stay away from cookies, cakes, muffins, and ice cream. But many of us don’t realize we also need to be careful when consuming cereal, bread, pasta, bagels, chips, pretzels, granola, protein bars, and rice cakes!
In most cases, these foods contain processed ingredients such as white flour, all-purpose flour, white rice flour, potato starch, cornstarch, and/or sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate and is listed as an ingredient in over 60 different ways, including high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, sucrose, molasses, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, and crystalline fructose, just to name a few.
2. Eat Whole Foods
Challenge yourself to stay away from packaged foods. If you confine your shopping to the produce section, you don’t need to worry about intaking unhealthy ingredients.
Vegetables such as brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, parsnips, pumpkin, beets, turnips, squash, and sweet potatoes are all amazing sources of carbohydrates. Do not deprive your body of valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and weight loss benefits by dismissing fruit from your diet! Coconut, avocados, lemons, grapefruit, berries, apples, oranges, peaches, kiwi, and melons are all fruits with a lower sugar content and should be a staple in your daily diet.
If consuming packaged foods, stick to ingredients such as beans, brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats, millet, amaranth, and honey.
3. Do Not Fall for Food Package Marketing
If a package claims to be low calorie, low carb, vegan, gluten-free, low fat, heart healthy, all-natural, organic, or multigrain, do not automatically assume it’s a healthy food choice!
No matter the claims made on the front of the package, it remains crucial to read the ingredient list. The majority of these foods are still loaded with added sugar and other processed carbs.
4. Educate Yourself on Portion Sizes
As with all things in life, you must eat carbs in moderation. While they’re important for optimal living, eating the proper portion size and measuring your food correctly is equally important.
In most cases the serving size is much smaller than you may realize, so always check the nutrition label before consuming. For example, a single serving of dried oats is ½ cup. Eating double or triple that amount may be too much for your metabolism to handle, causing unwanted weight gain.
5. Know if You are Consuming too Many Carbs
Find out if you’re consuming too many carbohydrates by asking yourself a few questions. Do you feel tired or experience brain fog after consuming meals? Do you regularly crave sweets or starchy foods? Do you have drastic energy highs and lows throughout your day? Are you still hungry after eating a full meal?
If yes, reflect on your daily carb intake. Struggling to lose weight, feeling overly tired, or experiencing abdominal discomfort and headaches can also signal that your carb intake is greater than what your body is able to metabolize.
6. Adjust Your Carb Intake Depending on Your Day
Your daily emotions and activity levels play a huge roll in how your body metabolizes carbohydrates. Stress and lack of sleep release high levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases our appetite. On days when you feel stressed or lack sleep, it’s best to avoid starchy foods like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, cereal, and other grainy options, and instead focus on consuming non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
Sedentary and less active days are also times when carbs are not as essential and should be eaten in greater moderation. But on days when you perform intense cardio or strength training, a higher intake of carbohydrates is required!
When training you expend a greater amount of energy, and carbohydrates are necessary for replenishing your muscle glycogen stores that have been depleted, as well as repairing and building broken down muscle fibers from your workout.
Learn to listen to your body. Know when it needs more or fewer carbs depending on how you feel and how your day is unfolding.
7. Concentrate on Eating a Balanced Diet
The most important tip of all is to find the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein in your daily diet. For example, if you consumed too many carbohydrates at breakfast, perhaps for lunch eat a meal heavier in fats and protein.
Forget the fad diets, avoid yo-yo dieting, and make eating simple by committing yourself to a balanced diet.