Are you carb-phobic? Are you considering a ketogenic diet or another diet that involves a very low intake of carbohydrates? While these diets (if done properly) can be successful for some people for weight loss in the short term, they can be difficult to sustain into the long-term (for longer than a year) because the food options are so limited. And, to my mind, that’s not a “successful” way of eating. It puts you on this exhausting and damaging track of weight cycling and endless diets (sound familiar?) which can have detrimental effects on your health. So, I’d like to make an argument in favor of the beneficial qualities of healthy forms of carbohydrates.
Not all carbs are created equal. Whole food forms of carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit and whole grains) in reasonable portion sizes are definitely preferable to refined/processed carbs or simple sugars. So, let’s break down the healthy attributes of whole food forms of carbohydrates.
Whole food carbs contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for overall health and support our immune health. They also contain antioxidants which combat damaging oxidative stress in the body and may be protective against cancer or other chronic diseases. In addition, they contain fiber which is important for GI health and also slows down digestion of the carbohydrates.
On the other hand, ketogenic and other very low carb diets can have side effects and have some inherent risks. One major risk is nutrient deficiencies (as described above) in the long-term. Also, the state of ketosis itself carries some potentially dangerous risks (such as ketoacidosis) and is not to be entered into lightly or carelessly. Ketosis is not a preferred state for your body and is not how your body was designed to run in normal or natural conditions.
Short-term side effects of these diets include: hunger, fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain “fog.” Possible long-term side effects include: kidney stones, gout and osteoporosis.
To summarize, the ketogenic diet can lead to weight loss, but the diet is quite extreme and many people are not successful at doing it properly or keeping it up long-term. That, combined with the fact that there are several potential side effects and inherent risks of these diets, leads me to conclude that very low carbohydrate diets are not appropriate for most people. For more information and guidance, discuss it with your Dietitian, physician or other trusted health professional.
So, for most people, what’s a better approach for healthy weight loss? Learning how to eat and cook in a healthy, balanced way that is based on whole foods, moderation, variety, as well as enjoyment – because once this is learned and becomes a habit, you carry this knowledge and these skills with you throughout the rest of your life.
Need help with putting into practice a balanced, moderate, whole foods-based diet? The best way to get started is to work with a Registered Dietitian such as myself. Contact me today to get started with one-on-one nutrition sessions which are personalized for your unique situation and lifestyle. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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