Carbohydrates and weight loss

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The body’s primary fuel comes from carbohydrates, which are often split into two categories for the purposes of identifying those carbohydrate foods that are nutritionally superior – namely, simple and complex.

Although sometimes a little misleading (as other factors may be relevant), this broad distinction is generally useful in determining whether a carbohydrate food is healthy or not.

Cut down on carbs to lose weight faster

You should eat fewer carbohydrates if you want to lose weight quickly.

Having said that, there is no need to cut out carbohydrates entirely if you are trying to lose weight and, in fact, that would not be a healthy step. Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for the body, but you should certainly cut back on the amount you are consuming – simple carbohydrates in particular.

Simple carbohydrates (such as those found in sugar, sweets and most refined foods, such as white bread, white rice etc) are generally considered to be unhealthy because of the fact that they are ‘fast-releasing’. In other words, they release their fuel very quickly, which leads to a spurt of energy in the short-term, but is then followed by a sudden drop in energy as the body fights to stabilise blood sugar levels. They are therefore best avoided.

The key is therefore controlling your carbohydrate intake, tailoring it to support weight loss instead of creating an obstacle to weight loss.

Which carbohydrates for weight loss?

Carbohydrates typically sit in the body and are very difficult to completely burn off. For best weight loss results, you therefore need to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” carbohydrates, finding those that are going to help (rather than hinder) your efforts.

There are some carbohydrates that offer you little or no nutritional value, and that can actually cause your blood sugar levels to spike and possibly create an insulin imbalance. It is important to consume a majority of healthy carbohydrates if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

There are some healthy carbohydrates that you can eat that will actually give your body fuel to function, thereby facilitating exercise, a faster metabolism and weight loss. Complex and simpler carbohydrates (present in natural whole foods, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit) are ‘slow-releasing’. In other words, they provide more sustained energy, which is gradually released and therefore helps to keep blood sugar (and energy) levels stable. This is why they are generally considered to be preferable.

Carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, grains and other plant-based sources are healthy options that will support all-round nutrition, fibre intake, a fast metabolism and a feeling of satiety, at the same time as carbohydrate intake for energy levels. Examples include:

  • barley or barley grass
  • quinoa
  • chickpeas
  • wholegrains
  • sweet potatoes
  • oats
  • bananas
  • beetroot
  • grapefruit
  • and many more.

But one word of caution… While fruit is, of course, highly nutritious, beware not to over-indulge given the high levels of sugar. Even though these are healthy fruit sugars, they can still contribute to weight gain. Balance your diet carefully.

Eat smart, plan well

Aside from the fast-releasing / slow-releasing issue, the value of carbohydrate foods can also be measured in terms of their relative nutrient content. For example, sugar and other refined carbohydrates tend to be acid-forming and devoid of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, while (because of their natural origins) complex carbohydrates and natural sources of simpler carbohydrates tend to be alkalising, and contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, dietary fibre, Omega oils and phyto-nutrients.

Therefore, by opting for these ‘healthy’ carbohydrates, you not only provide the body with what it needs to use them properly, you also support the digestive system, general immunity, health and well-being. By comparison, a diet packed with simple, refined and fast-releasing carbohydrates can, over time, give rise to a host of complex symptoms and health problems.

It is therefore suggested that slow-releasing carbohydrates (from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses) should make up at least two-thirds of the daily diet (or around 65% of your total calorie intake).

Changing the way you eat will most likely be one of the key factors that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Almost certainly, years of poor eating habits have led to the excess weight in the first place. It is those habits that need to be reversed.

Instead of eating your big meal in the evening, try changing it to lunch. Try not to eat starchy carbohydrates after 3pm; instead make your final meal of the day no more than three hours before bedtime. That meal should be a light meal high in lean protein and nutrients, but low in calories.

Sugary drinks, refined sugar and other processed foods are all things to avoid at all costs. Carbonated beverages, in particular, are full of sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates, and can also add to any cravings that you experience. Instead, choose a bottle of water to reduce the thirst that you have and help you to feel fuller, if you want to stay as healthy and slim as possible.

Also try to ensure that you have a little bit of lean protein in all of your meals, even breakfast. Protein tends to fill you up more than carbohydrates or fats would.

To help you lose weight, plan on eating a substantial healthy breakfast each morning. This strategy will help you avoid overeating at lunch time or craving snacks between the meals. Egg whites are a good choice.

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