May 19, 2016
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In recent years, many people have resorted to low-carb diets as means to lose weight but low-carb dieters may in fact be misinformed.
The human body and brain depends on three macronutrients to function properly: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In order to meet the body’s daily nutritional need and minimize risk of chronic disease, adults should get 20-30% fat, 10-35% protein and 45-65% carbohydrates. Of course cutting an entire food group out of one’s diet would lead to weight loss, it could also lead to detrimental effects on the human body function as each macronutrient serves an important role to maintain optimal health.
Carbohydrates provide energy and help regulate blood glucose. They are the main and most efficient source of fuel for proper cellular function; once digested, our bodies break them down into simple sugars which are then absorbed into our blood stream and used for energy. If the body already has enough energy to support its functions, the excess glucose is stored as glycogen. Glycogen is needed for prolonged muscle use (such as during exercise). The more active an individual is, the more carbohydrates he/she needs.
It important to maintain adequate glucose levels in the blood in order to prevent the state of ketosis. Ketosis is a condition where the body begins to use ketones, which are derived from fat in our body, as a source of fuel. Although this idea may sound appealing, ketone bodies are acidic and extreme levels of ketosis can lead to ketoacidosis. Ketones presence may cause low appetite, nausea, headaches, bad breath, decreased fertility and even kidney stones and thyroid dysfunction.
Low carbohydrate diets are also associated with mood swings. Carbohydrates help keep serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps boost your mood and produce healthy sleeping patterns) levels elevated in your brain.
Additionally, carbohydrates are important to prevent constipation. A healthy bowel requires ingesting sufficient both soluble and insoluble fiber which are mainly found in carbohydrates. Evidence also suggests that fiber in the diet helps prevent colon cancer and promote weight control (as it helps keep you full for a longer period of time).
Although, eating a diet rich in carbohydrates will not inevitably cause weight gain and in fact helps maintain healthy body functions, eating too much of the wrong kind won’t have the same positive effects. Not all carbs are created equal! There are the Simple Carbohydrates which are high in sugar and low in fiber and the Complex Carbohydrates which are rich in fiber and thus take the body more time to break down.
The simple carbohydrates include table sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, white rice, white flour, white pasta, sugary cereal, potatoes, etc. These foods are digested quickly, and have a high glycemic index. This means that they lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
The complex carbs include whole grains such as wheat, oats, rye, bulgur, barley, quinoa, etc. and foods made from them, such as oatmeal, pasta, bran cereals and whole-grain breads; starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin; beans, lentils, and peas. These carbohydrates should be focused on and highly incorporated in our diets.
It is important to get the recommended dietary intake of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. Make sure you visit your local nutritionist to learn how to plan your meals and reach that target.