Can a low-carb diet help you lose weight?
Carbs are not the enemy. There are healthy and unhealthy carbohydrate foods, and knowing the healthy ones to include in your daily diet is essential.
The food we eat is made up of macro nutrients (needed in larger amounts) and micronutrients (needed in smaller amounts). Carbohydrates or ‘carbs’ are a macronutrient that is important for healthy body functioning.
The risks of going low-carb
Cutting carbs can lead to feelings of fatigue, lack of energy for workouts, headaches and irritability. This is because carbs are essential for brain and muscle cell function.
Restricting carbs can also lead to an unhealthy reduction in fibre that is present in foods like wholegrain bread, cereals, fruit and legumes. With low fibre diets being linked to bowel cancer, these are foods you definitely want to be eating daily.
The other concern is what carbs are replaced with. Low carb diet spruikers often encourage you to increase you intake of high fat foods when cutting carbs. This recommendation is not backed by science, and can be dangerous as high fat diets are strongly linked with an increased risk of heart disease.
What is a low carb diet?
There is no set guideline for what defines a low carb diet, and in fact many people are confused about what foods contain carbs. Many believe high carb foods to be just bread, rice and pasta, however fruit, starchy vegetables, lentils and legumes, milk, yoghurt, and sugary foods like biscuits and lollies are high in carbs too. You can see from this list that there are healthy carbs and less healthy ones. Cutting out all of these foods would result in a very restrictive diet that lacks essential nutrients.
Some people may be eating a diet that is excessive in carbs, with large portions of bread, pasta or fruit for example. In this case, reducing carb intake (to achieve healthy weight loss) would be a positive step. This does not mean cutting out carbs altogether.
When you drastically cut carbs you will indeed lose weight quickly, and your body’s carbohydrate stores will be used up. Chemically speaking, the carbohydrate molecule is two-thirds water. So the initial weight loss is made up of a large portion of water. Once you start eating carbs again, this weight (including ‘water weight’) is regained just as fast. Because cutting out carbs is impossible for most people to maintain forever, it is not a sustainable plan for weight loss and studies show it leads to weight regain(often above your stating weight) in the long run.
Carbs are broken down into glucose – this is the energy for our cells. To give your body a steady stream of energy and prevent fatigue or blood sugar ‘crashes’, choose a moderate amount of quality carbohydrate at each meal.
For breakfast the Strictly You plans include wholegrain toast and cereal grains like oats. Lunches include brown rice, wholegrain wraps and legumes in salads, and dinners boast delicious filling carbs like sweet potato, quinoa, and perfectly portioned pasta.
Prepared by Kara Vogt –Accredited Practicing Dietitian