For the past decade or so, following a low-carb diet plan has been considered the no-fail way to lose pounds fast. Obsessively counting carbs and fat grams is practically a national pastime at this point—especially during the critical post-holiday/pre-bikini season months. The low-carb craze hit critical mass in the early 2000’s as The Atkins Diet became so popular it reportedly affected Krispy Kreme sales. While the Atkins plan lost steam by 2005, low carb diets remain the go-to for quick weight-loss.
There is plenty of research on the subject of low-carb diets and which low-carb diet plan is the healthiest. The latest research from the National Institutes of Health shows that we may need to completely rethink the whole notion of carbs and the glycemic index. So if you’re weighing (no pun intended!) the benefits of going low-carb/low-fat or low-carb/high fat or high carb/low-fat consider the words of Low-Carb Fraud author T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D: “I have heard one doctor call high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets “make-yourself-sick” diets, and I think that’s an appropriate moniker. You can also lose weight by undergoing chemotherapy or starting a heroin addiction, but I wouldn’t recommend those, either.” And consider these eight reasons carbs aren’t always a bad thing.
1. Resistant Starch
Not all carbs are created equal and the same goes for starches. We get most of our carbs from starchy foods like bread, cereal, pasta, rice and potatoes. Resistant starches aren’t as easily absorbed and some of what you eat passes through your system without being digested—similar to fiber. Aside from not adding calories, this undigested starch has many benefits including keeping your digestive system healthy and nourished as well as helping you feel fuller so you consume fewer calories.
2. Carbs Make You Happy
Ever noticed how cranky you get while you’re following a low-carb diet plan? It’s not just because you’re hungry. Carbs help your brain produce serotonin, a feel-good neurotrans and brown rice if you need a mood elevator.
3. Low-Carb Isn’t Sustainable
There’s no question that eating a low-carb diet will help you drop pounds fast in the short-term but if you’ve ever tried cutting them out, you know that you can almost feel each one of those pounds instantly returning with your first slice of toast. Carbs are everywhere, they taste delicious and they make us feel good—trying to severely restrict any major food group is a recipe for failure.
4. Carbs are Fuel
Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. They’re your body’s main source of fuel and they give you energy to sustain you through a busy day. The USDA recommends that adults get 45%-65% of their daily calories from carbs.
There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. Fiber is a great weight-loss tool because your body can’t digest it and it adds bulk to your meals so you feel fuller and eat less. Fiber has also been show to help reduce your risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. And, of course, fiber keeps your digestive tract working smoothly.
6. They’re Complex
Simple carbohydrates are sugars like, well, sugar and also syrups, jams, jellies and other sweets. Complex carbohydrates are starches like whole grains, vegetables and beans. Complex carbs tend to be higher in fiber as well as other vital nutrients.
Many carbs, like sweet potatoes and brown rice, contain tryptophan—the same amino acid that helps your body produce serotonin, and the reason turkey makes you sleepy. Oatmeal also contains the sleep regulating hormone, melatonin. Eating a healthy carb snack before bed can help you get a good night’s sleep so you’re at your best and able to stick to a healthy diet during the day.
If you’re not eating enough carbs, your body may start breaking down muscle to use as energy. This can slow your metabolism and hurt you in the long run.
9. Carbs = Longevity
A recent study at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre found that mice who ate a high-carb, low-fat and low-protein diet lived longer and were healthier overall than those on low-carb diets. Professor of geriatric medicine, David Le Couteur, a member of the study’s team said: “The healthiest diets were the ones that had the lowest protein, 5 to 10 to 15 per cent protein, the highest amount of carbohydrate, so 60, 70, 75 per cent carbohydrate, and a reasonably low fat content, so less than 20 per cent.”
10. Brain Food
Many low-carb diet plans leave you feeling sluggish and unable to concentrate on top of the crankiness. Thinking takes more energy than you realize and glucose plays a key role in fueling all of that brilliance. However, the sugar spike from sodas and sweets can actually wind up draining your brain. Complex carbs keep your memory sharp and your mind focused.