Are you struggling to lose weight and think that cutting carbs is the solution?
Have you already cut out carbs and are puzzled why you’re not losing weight?
If you’ve answered “yes” to either of these questions, then this weeks post: 6 Amazing Carbs To Help You Lose Weight is for you.
One of the biggest myths around is that pasta, bread, potatoes and rice are fattening. You just need to look at where trim people live – Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Africa and Peru to name a few, to see that the healthiest and trimmest people eat mostly rice, brans and potatoes! Off course they eat vegetables too, but very little meat and dairy products.
They’re not only trim for their whole lives, but as Dr John McDougall says: they have a healthy and youthful look.
So in this week I’m going to be taking a look at what carbohydrates are, why you need to eat them everyday, and why eating carbohydrates can help you to lose weight.
What are carbohydrates?
Plants make carbohydrates and store them in their leaves, stems, roots, and fruits. They’re one of three macronutrients that your body needs in relatively large amounts every day. The other two are fat and protein.
Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar) that your body uses as energy to power your cells, tissues and organs. If your body doesn’t use all the glucose from the carbohydrate, it stores it in your liver and muscles for when you do need it.
There are two types of carbohydrate, simple or complex. Whether a carbohydrate is simple or complex depends on their chemical structure. Simple carbs include sugars that you can find in fruit and vegetables.
Complex carbs include whole grains, starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and corn, and legumes.
Fiber is found in many of these carbohydrates. We’ll take a look at fiber further down the page.
Did you know that red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and vegetable oils contain no carbohydrates?
Why you need to eat carbohydrates everyday
Macronutrients “carbohydrate, protein, and fat” are essential for your health, your growth, to heal you, and to maintain your immune function.
Carbohydrates are your main source of energy to power every cell in your body, and the glucose that’s made from the carbohydrate is the preferred source of fuel for your brain, nervous system, red blood cells, kidneys and heart.
They also help you to lose weight and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Research has also shown that eating a carb rich, protein poor meal can improve depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness and calmness.
Without carbohydrates in your diet you’ll feel tired, lethargic, have difficulty concentrating, be constipated as well as having an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
If you’ve been avoiding carbs because you think:
“People who eat the most carbohydrates tend to gain the most weight.”
Then you’ve fallen under the spell of the low carb myth makers.
It’s time to think again.
As nutritionmd.org says:
Popular diet books point out that cutting out carbohydrate–containing foods may lead to temporary weight loss.
This fact has been misinterpreted as suggesting that carbohydrate–rich foods are the cause of obesity.
In epidemiological studies and clinical trials, the reverse has been shown to be true.
Many people throughout Asia consume large amounts of carbohydrate in the form of rice, noodles, and vegetables and generally have lower body weights than Americans—including Asian–Americans—who eat large amounts of meat, dairy products, and fried foods.
Similarly, vegetarians, who generally follow diets rich in carbohydrates, typically have significantly lower body weights than omnivores.
Fibre, the non-digestible carbohydrate that is incredibly powerful
Because it adds bulk to your diet, helps you to feel full faster and for longer. It also helps to control your weight because high fibre foods tend to take longer for you to eat and are less “energy dense”. Essentially it means that you eat fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Fibre is a carb that your body can’t digest, so it passes through your body intact, without being broken down into sugars, crucially, it helps to remove waste from your body including excess fats in the intestine.
If you eat enough fibre, 40 grams per day, this has been shown to decrease your risk for heart disease, obesity, and it also helps to control your blood glucose and insulin metabolism, and keeps your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check.
It also keeps your gastrointestinal tract ticking over and protects you against constipation, intestinal diseases and disorders.
If however you eat refined carbohydrate rich foods, then you’re eating food that has been stripped of their fibre and all the protective components, they become the ‘bad’ carbs that you should avoid. I’ve listed some of them below for you.
You’ll only find dietary fibre in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Meat, poultry e.g. chicken, fish and dairy products don’t have any fibre.
The Five to One Ratio Check For Fibre
Any easy way to check how much fibre your food has is the five to one ratio. Go to the nutrition facts label on your food. Check how many carbohydrates are in 100g and then check to see how much fibre there is.
If you do buy something packaged, check that the first word in the ingredients list is “whole,”, if it is, then read on and look a the ratio of grams of carbohydrates to grams of dietary fiber.
Divide the carbohydrates by the dietary fiber. 20 divided by 2.7 is about 7, that’s more than five, so goes back on the shelf. 15 divided by three equals five, so that’s alright and you can pop it into your basket.
How many carbohydrates should you eat?
Carbohydrates are essential for your day to day health and to keep you energized. Every cell of your body needs carbohydrate for energy, but how much do you need to eat every day?
Colin Campbell. PhD states in his book, Whole: “Aim to get 80 per cent of your calories from carbohydrates.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that 55 to 75 percent of calories come from carbohydrates.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that you should get 45 percent to 65 percent from carbs.
Despite the differences in the percentages, they all agree that whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds should provide most of these carbohydrates, so I tend to go with T. Colin Campbell and aim for 80 percent of calories from carbs every day.
Why do carbohydrates help you to lose weight?
As pcrm.org states: Carbohydrate-rich foods are helpful for permanent weight control because they contain less than half the calories of fat, which means that replacing fatty foods with complex carbohydrates automatically cuts calories.
Carbohydrates provide you with 4 calories per gram, compared with fat that provides you with 9 calories per gram.
pcrm.org goes on to say:
In fact, carbohydrate-rich foods are perfect for permanent weight control.
Carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat, which means that replacing fatty foods with complex carbohydrates automatically cuts calories.
But calories are only part of the story.
A recent study in China found that, on the average, Chinese people eat 20 percent more calories than Americans, but they are also slimmer.1
Part of this is due to the sedentary American lifestyle, but there is more to it than exercise alone.
Earlier studies have shown that obese people do not consume more calories than non-obese people—in many cases, they consume less.2,3
The body treats carbohydrates differently than fat calories.
The difference comes with how the body stores the energy of different food types.
It is very inefficient for the body to store the energy of carbohydrates as body fat—it burns 23 percent of the calories of the carbohydrate—but fat is converted easily into body fat.
Only 3 percent of the calories in fat are burned in the process of conversion and storage.4
It is the type of food, not so much the quantity, that affects body fat the most.5
So, what are the 6 Amazing Carbs To Help You To Lose Weight?
In no particular order, here they are…
- Potatoes, including sweet potatoes
- Whole grains including brown rice, oats, rye, wheat, wild rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, amaranth, pasta
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, etc.)
Potatoes are only fattening if you smother them with food such as cheese, cream cheese, butter etc. Try filling them with a veggie chilli or some hummus topped with chopped spring onions/scallions.
Which carbohydrates should you avoid?
Stay clear of processed carbohydrates, anything with added sugar and anything that is white.
These types of food tend to increase your blood glucoses levels, and if your blood glucose level stays higher for longer than it should, this can lead you to develop type 2 diabetes.
Eating these carbs will stop you losing weight and, you’ll probably put on weight. They’ve lost most of their fibre and many other nutrients.
Here are some foods to stay away from:
- White flour pasta
- Packaged cereal
- White flour bread
And here are some ingredients that you should also stay away from:
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
Here’s what I do…
It’s not only athletes who have to “load up” on carbs to provide the energy to get them through their day. You need carbs too.
I try to eat a good combination carbs every day. I start with oats and berries and wholemeal toast for breakfast, and then incorporate brown rice, veggies, fruit, beans, lentils and whole grains into my lunch and dinner.
I tend to snack on fruit and vegetable sticks and hummus.
If losing weight for your summer holidays is one of your goals, then consider following a whole food, plant-based diet and you’ll not only be able to eat all delicious carbs, but you’ll be able to lose weight too!
I’d love to hear from you… did you make it? What’s your favourite plant-based soup? Let me know in the comments section below.
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- China: a living lab for epidemiology. Science. 1990;248:553-555.
- Garrow JS. Energy Balance and Obesity in Man. New York: Elsevier, 1974.
- Braitman LS, Adlin E, Stanton JL. Obesity and caloric intake: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1971-75 (HANES 1). J Chronic Dis. 1985;38:727-732.
- Flatt JP. Energetics of intermediary metabolism. In: Gatrow JS, Halliday D, eds. Substrate and Energy Metabolism in Man. London: John Libbey and Co., 1985;58-69.
- Dreon DM, Frey-Hewitt B, Ellsworth N, Williams PT, Terry RB, Wood PD. Dietary fat: carbohydrate ratio and obesity in middle-aged men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;47:995-1000.