The low-carb diet fad hit hard in the early 2000’s, and its popularity continues to reign supreme among weight loss enthusiasts today. Indeed, many people have seen impressive weight loss results from adopting a low-carb lifestyle, and scientific evidence supports that carbohydrate regulation is a more effective way of losing weight and improving health than low-fat and low-calorie approaches.
However, there’s also a low side to low-carb living for many people – a diminishing waist line that’s sometimes accompanied by diminishing health. Low energy, chronic constipation, lethargy, brain fog, bad breath, excessive muscle cramping, heart palpitations and other side effects are commonly reported by low-carb dieters. Even worse, a 2010 Harvard study that accumulated data from 100,000 people found that low-carb diets were associated with higher all-cause mortality, higher rates of cardiovascular disease and more deaths from cancer.
Clearing the Carb Confusion
The problem with trending carb conversation is that it tends to lump together far too many types of food into one single “carbohydrates” category. Technically, double-stuffed Oreos and cauliflower both fall into the same “carb” classification, but they are vastly different foods with completely different effects on your body. The carb foods that spike blood sugar, over-stimulate insulin production and cause internal inflammation and disease are grouped together with the carb foods that help to balance blood sugar, avoid diabetes, and fight against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, digestive problems, etc. It also lumps together the foods that lead to weight gain with the very foods that are essential for weight loss.
Healthy low-carb diets steer people away from doughnuts, breads, bagels, sweets and other highly processed, refined foods that have been stripped of their natural nutrients and fiber. These sorts of carbs spike your blood sugar, flood your body with insulin and stimulate a roller coaster of cascading hormonal responses, scrambled appetite signals, increased belly fat storage, rising levels of inflammation, skyrocketing blood pressure and triglyceride levels, lowered HDL, and other effects that eventually come to interfere with weight maintenance, blood sugar regulation, heart health, brain health, reproductive health and more.
On the other hand, there is another group of carbs that are absolutely vital for healthy digestion, weight control, heart health, brain health, reproductive health and long-term life. Natural, whole plant foods also fall into the carb food category. However, the glaring difference between these kinds of carbs and the other kind is that the majority of these plant foods are low glycemic, which means they don’t spike your blood sugar or insulin, nor do they trigger off the bad biochemical domino effect that arises from processed carbs.
Moreover, vegetables and fruits are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and are incredibly rich in powerful compounds called phytonutrients and phytochemicals, that are associated with the improvement of almost every health problem, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, aging, etc. High-fiber plant foods also feed the friendly flora in your gut and scrub your intestines from the inside, which supports a healthy digestive tract, better weight control and stronger immunity.
Leading diet experts recommend that 75 percent of your carb intake come from non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, and that, by volume, the majority of every meal plate should be filled with these.
In effect, then, according to the latest research, the most health-sustaining and ideal weight-loss diet is a diet that is HIGH in carbs – high in “slow” carbs, that is, which are high-fiber, low-sugar and nutrient-dense carbs that are slowly digested in the body. Slow carbs discourage blood sugar spikes and fat storage while increasing detoxification, metabolism, immune function, brain function, heart function and general health.
Indulge in Carbs that Heal You
Good-quality carbohydrate foods come from plant foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and phytochemicals. Some of these carbs are extremely low in calories and can be eaten without limit every day, while others should be eaten for optimal good health but in portioned amounts. Here are just a few examples of which good-quality carbs you can eat freely and lose weight, which good-quality carbs greatly enhance your health but should be eaten in moderated amounts, and which carbs you should completely avoid.
Eat As Much As You Want of These Carbs:
- Dark leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, mustard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, collards, turnip greens, water cress, mixed greens, etc.)
- Bok Choy
- Bell peppers
- Artichoke hearts
- Brussel Sprouts
Enjoy These Carbs for Good Health, In Moderation:
- Legumes & beans
- Dark berries (blueberries, black berries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, etc.)
- Stone fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, etc.)
- Pseudo-grains (quinoa, amaranth, black rice, red rice, brown rice, buckwheat, teff, etc.)
Enjoy These Carbs for Good Health, in Limited Amounts:
- Starchy vegetables like squash, peas, beets, sweet potato, yams, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips, corn, etc.
- Healthy fruits like kiwi, pineapple, pomegranate, apple, grapes, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, guava, watermelon, mango, passion fruit, pears, etc.
Carbs to Completely Avoid
- Refined and Processed foods (even the ones claiming to be “low carb”, “healthy”, “high fiber”, etc.) Always aim for natural, whole and minimally processed foods.
- Dried fruit
- Foods containing refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, other syrups, artificial sweeteners, etc.
Trade In Your Low-Carb Diet for a Slow-Carb Diet
Eating a diet that is high in the right kinds of carbs, in combination with lean, healthy sources of protein and healthy essential fats allows you to lose weight far more easily and safely while also vastly improving how you feel, your energy levels, your over-all health, your long-term happiness and longevity.