When it comes to health and nutrition, it seems like we always seem to focus on picking a food group to villainize and right now, that food group seems to be carbs! There is lots of controversy around carbs. Some people seem to believe they are healthy and nutrient dense. Others believe they are unhealthy and the thing that is standing in the way of your weight loss goals. But what’s the truth? Let’s look at a debunk some of the myths around carbs and their impact on weight.
MYTH #1: Carbs are Fattening and Make You Gain Weight
REALITY: Everything is fattening if you eat too much of it! The primary issue with carbs is weight gain is portion size. Portion sizes of carbohydrates have grown exponentially in the last 30 years. A healthy portion of carbs should be about a cup, but often times we are eating more than 4x that in a single meal! In addition to portion size, it is important to look at the impact of refined carbs vs whole grain carbs. Refined carbs (carbs that have been processed and stripped of their fiber), like candy, cookies, and crackers are designed to be overeaten. Since they are stripped of their fiber, they don’t give you a feeling of fullness so you just keep eating. Fiber keeps you full and energize and is an important component of any healthy weight management plan. In fact, numerous studies have should that regular fiber intake can help reduce the risk of weight gain! So, focus on eating whole grains and skip the refined options.
MYTH #2: Low Carb Diets are the Best/Only Way to Lose Weight
REALITY: Low carb diets can definitely help you lose weight short-term (much of which initially is water weight) but long-term this style of eating is rarely healthy or sustainable. Our bodies and our brains function optimally by using glucose which we get from carbohydrates. These same carbohydrates are also a primary source of Vitamin, B, fiber, iron, and folate. Also, cutting out carbs can actually increase your risk of numerous cardiovascular diseases and mortality! Most of the weight loss benefits achieved by following a low-carb diet can be achieved by simply reducing or eliminating overly processed carbs from your diet and focusing on whole carb foods, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
MYTH #3: Fruit is High Carb/Sugar and Bad for Weight Loss
REALITY: Fruit does contain a natural sugar, called fructose, but it is also jam-packed with fiber and other nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In fact, increasing your intake of fruits and berries has actually been shown to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes and has shown to be a healthy addition to any weight loss plan. Like all carbohydrates, the important thing when considering fruit and weight loss, is the pay attention to portion sizes and focus on eating the whole food. Stick to eating whole fruits and skipping juice options (which concentrate the sugar and remove the fiber) and focus on incorporating high-fiber fruits such as berries, apples, kiwis, and pears.
MYTH #4: All Carbs Cause Major Blood Sugar Spikes and Drops
REALITY: Fiber is actually the big mitigator of blood sugar spikes and it is found in abundance is whole food carbs. Fiber creates a slow release of the sugars in carbohydrate which prevents blood sugar spikes and drop. In fact, research studies have shown that a high carb, high fiber diet actually leads to improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism as well as weight loss. The issue with carbs and blood sugar is when they are ingested in high quantities without fiber—as in refined carbs. If you are wanting to improve your glucose metabolism and prevent blood sugar spikes and drops, the important note (again!) is to avoid refined and processed carbs and focus on whole food carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains.
Based on the research, carbs in their natural form are not the enemy—in fact, they are anything but! They are full of nutrients and an important part of a healthy weight management plan. Just be sure to focus on eating carbs in their whole, non-refined form, and always be mindful of portion sizes.