Low Carb Diets for Women: Debunking Myths Around Carbohydrates

Carbs are a hot and commonly debated topic. When swimsuit season comes around, phrases like  “I’m avoiding carbs” or “I’m on a no-carb diet” become popular. These utterances have become more common as diets such as Atkins, Paleo, Ketogenic, and South Beach have blanketed the internet. It’s easy to get over-consumed by the appealing claims alongside those hot selfies and astonishing weight-loss stories.

Truth be told, all carbs are NOT created equal. Your body needs carbs not only to function but also to burn fat as a fuel (yes, carbs help you burn fat), and YOU CAN lose weight and eat carbs at the same time, I promise. While the photos and stories promoting a low-carb diet may seem like an easy go-to to meet your health goals, there is actually more to the story.

Lets debunk a few popular carb myths and focus on the facts.

 

Sliced banana sweet potato cake

Myth: Ketogenic diet and low-carb diets are the best for weight loss.

False

Facts:
First of all, one diet does not fit all. Genetically we all metabolize things differently. We all have different lifestyles with different challenges and routines. The diet you will implement as a lifestyle is the best diet for you. You will lose weight on a ketogenic diet, as well as almost any other special diet that watches portions and promotes whole foods.

Research is lacking on the long-term effects of a ketogenic or low-carb diet. There is some concern that low-carb diets may have negative effects on kidney function and promote leaking of calcium from the bones.

Evidence shows yo-yo dieting (for example: being on a Ketogenic diet then returning to old eating habits then starting the next craze…maybe juice fast) can actually lower your metabolism and make it harder to keep weight off.

 

Myth: Carbs are bad and cause weight gain, especially for women.

False

Facts:
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients that compose a large part of the human diet. Carbohydrates can be found in varying amounts in vegetables, fruit, dairy, beans, legumes, and grains. Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body and are the preferred fuel source for the central nervous system (including your brain) and muscular systems. When a women is pregnant, the baby’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates, and if you’re breastfeeding you need extra whole food carbs to help with milk production and to prevent you from feeling way more tired than necessary with an infant.

Complex vs. Simple Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are commonly classified as either complex or simple/refined. Complex carbs contain a greater amount of fiber and are most likely consumed in their whole natural form. Complex carb examples include blueberries, sweet potatoes, whole grains, butternut squash, millet, quinoa, coconut, Health Warrior Protein Mug Muffins, whole grain bread, beans, lentils, and many more.

Complex carbs take longer for your body to break down, help stabilize your blood sugar, and promote balanced gut bacteria, and have been shown to aid in weight loss. Not only do complex carbs actually aid in weight loss, partly due to their high-fiber content (fiber is commonly lacking in low-carb diets), but they can aid in the loss of stubborn belly fat.

Fiber’s role in promoting healthy gut bacteria has an impressive impact on a women’s mental health due to the fact that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive system, which may help reduce stress and anxiety. Research has also shown a correlation between imbalanced gut bacteria, inflammation, and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone which may impact PMS symptoms in women.

Research on the Mediterranean diet and other plant-based diets that include high-fiber carbohydrates have shown metabolic benefits, decreased cardiovascular risk, and decreased type 2 diabetes risk when compared to dietary patterns that contained a high degree of meat products. Analysis of results from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study discovered that those who consumed greater amounts of whole grains benefited from reduced mortality and death from cardiovascular disease.

Simple carbs are mostly where weight gain is possible when they are over consumed. Simple carbohydrates are foods that have been highly processed and broken down. Examples of refined carbs include, refined rice flour, sucrose, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, fruit juices, white bread, chips, most crackers, cookies, and many more. It is very easy to over-consume these foods, as they are readily available. Because these foods lack fiber, lack bulk, and are easily broken down in the digestive system, large portions can cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar, cause an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria, promote inflammation, cause weight gain, and increase your risk for various diseases.

This is where people misleadingly think it’s the carbs that made them fat when they eliminate carbs from their diet in one big swoop. The typical Standard American Diet includes a whopping 57 pounds of sugar per year in addition to other simple carbs. Yes, you will lose weight by eliminating all carbs because this includes refined products. It’s not necessary to lose the nutritious complex carbs with the refined carbs, however, and is healthier in the long term to keep these foods in your diet.

Bottom line, when it comes to enhancing women’s health, think “whole food” and think “balance.” A healthy diet that promotes healthy weight, balanced hormones, improved mood, and the strength and stamina to take on the world includes complex carbs, a very moderate amount of simple carbs (you can have a little chocolate and lose weight, I promise. Even Oprah says so), high vegetable intake, and protein. The Health Warrior Protein Mug Muffin is one example of a perfectly balanced meal or snack option containing complex carbs from bean and sorghum flour with 5g of fiber, a tiny bit of refined carbs at 6g (1.5 teaspoon) and 12g of plant-based protein.


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21681224

http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.XGnbzc9Kit8

http://www.caltech.edu/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495

https://academic.oup.com/femsre/article/39/4/509/2467625

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