Low-carbs foods and the brain

17 May

Low-carb diets have been trendy since the early 70s when the first Atkins Diet Revolution was published. These diets are enticing because they promise you will lose weight quickly, you won’t be hungry, and you can have all you want of some of your favorite foods, like steak, lobster, cheese, and blue cheese dressing! Information about low-carb foods and losing weight is everywhere; it also makes us feel guilty for eating anything with carbs!

The truth is, if you consume more food than your body needs for energy you will gain weight.

A typical low-carb diet initially severely restricts foods with carbohydrate such as fruits, vegetables, milk, whole grains and often allows unlimited meats and fats like steaks, hamburgers (without the bun), cheese bacon and eggs. This can be counterproductive because carbohydrates contain fewer calories of fat.

Diets based in low carbs claim that foods high in carbohydrates are the cause of weight gain because they increase the insulin production, which causes food to be stored as fat in our bodies. Therefore, eating a diet low in carbs contributes to weight loss, despite how much we eat.

These claims are not based on science and the reality is carbohydrates are very important for our overall health:

  • Our brain depends on carbohydrates for energy. The average minimum amount of glucose utilized by the brain is 130 grams per day. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrate is 130 grams per day. https://www.nap.edu/read/1349/chapter/3breakfast - Copy
  • Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy contain substances like antioxidants and phytochemicals, along with fiber, calcium, and vitamins and minerals that can help prevent aging and many chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

We have to be carbohydrate conscious instead of completely eliminating it of our diet.  Carbohydrate as a nutrient is not the culprit in weight gain – rather it’s the amount of calories we obtain from eating unhealthy carbs (mostly refined) found in “junk” food.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That translates to between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. You can find the carbohydrate content of packaged foods on the Nutrition Facts label. The label shows total carbohydrates — which includes starches, fiber, sugar alcohols, and naturally occurring and added sugars. The label might also list separately total fiber, soluble fiber and sugar.

So choose your carbohydrates wisely. Limit foods with added sugars and refined grains, such as sugary drinks, desserts and candy, which are packed with calories but low in nutrition. Instead, go for fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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