The Role of Carbs in Weight Gain/Loss
Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in bread, cereal, starches, potatoes, fruit, some dairy products, and vegetables. Diet culture has led many to believe that carbohydrates, especially in bread and rice, lead to weight gain. In the 1990s especially, carbs were avoided by many in an attempt to prevent weight gain; however, carbs are essential to the human body and they do not cause weight gain. Their elimination and substitution in different diet plans promoting weight loss in the 90s have had consequences.
Carbohydrates in healthy foods such as bread, rice, and vegetables are essential to the human body. But, like other types of foods, carbohydrates in processed foods, simple carbohydrates, can lead to weight gain. These processed foods are abundant in fat and sugar, leading to weight gain. They are also digested quickly by the body. However, healthy and complex forms of carbs -- vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and beans-- may help one lose weight. These complex carbs are digested slower by the body, preventing hunger for long periods of time. In fact, the British government's healthy eating advice states that over a third of one’s diet should be made up of starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.
Healthy eating advice promotes the consumption of carbs because carbs are very important for a variety of different reasons in the body. They are important for energy, preventing diseases, and they also contain fewer calories than fat. Regarding energy, carbs are the main source of energy for the body in which they are broken down into glucose before being absorbed into blood. The conversion of carbs into glucose is how the body has energy for exercise and other activities. Healthy carbs also have fiber in them, an important part of a healthy diet, which promotes good bowel health, reduces the risk of constipation, and reduces cholesterol levels. Finally, carbohydrates contain fewer calories gram for gram than fat, which has been used in some weight loss diets, but diet plans have failed to see the importance of carbs.
Often in diet plans for weight loss in the 1990s, carbs would be eliminated and larger quantities of proteins would be eaten instead. However, carbs are essential for the body to obtain enough nutrients, and without the nutrients in them, the body will gain health problems. These diets failed to recognize this and replaced carbs with higher fat sources of protein, such as meats. But increasing protein intake by consuming more meat as well as eliminating carbs, leads to increases in saturated fat, raising the amount of cholesterol in one’s blood. Thus, the elimination of carbs such as bread and vegetables has more negative effects than positive.
But, without a doubt, the trend of eliminating carbs has mainly come to an end since the 90’s. However, new diets that significantly decrease carb consumption have emerged today-- the keto diet. This diet significantly reduces carb intake, potentially leading followers of the diet to health problems and an imbalance in diet. As new diets are released, it is important for one to remember that healthy and complex carbohydrates like rice and bread are essential to nutrition and even help with weight loss. The elimination of the essential nutrients in carbs will lead to harmful consequences in the body.
Mawer Rudy. 2020 Oct 22. The ketogenic diet: A detailed beginner’s guide to keto.
Nhs.uk. 2020 January 9. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/why-we-need-to-eat-
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Wagoner, Mackenzie. 2016 May 26 . A history of the diet by decade: 11 food fads that promised to make us thin.