So you failed to get up with the lark and tried to beat the traffic by speedily munching a cereal – carbs. Luckily, you made it to work on time, and after a few busy hours, a Steak or a Grilled Cheese Sandwich felt suitable for the 30-minute lunch break – more carbs. Weary after a stressful day, you try to reduce dinner complications by cooking rice with chicken and salad in the dish – still more carbs. And although the coffee you drank feels vindicating from the unaware carbs diet, the snacks you ate, if any, are still implicating.
Owing to evitable circumstances, the spontaneous consumption of carbs in massive amounts has exponentially risen. More and more people are oblivious to these endangering quantities, from low fibre-amounted cereals to processed rice.
What are Carbs?
Carb is a colloquial term to describe Carbohydrates. Sugar molecules make them up; the main components being Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Aside from sugars, starches and fibres are also naturally occurring carbs. They originate from plant-based food formed by the linking of sugar molecules.
Some foods with the most carbs include milk, rice, cereals, potatoes, and corn. It is also essential to note that we seldom consume carbs in isolation, except when eating processed foods like white bread or cereal. Most whole meals we eat are mixtures of various nutrients contributing to a healthy diet.
Why do you need Carbs?
Carbs, being one of the chief macro-nutrients in the body, are essential for producing energy. In the presence of other energy-providing nutrients (fats and proteins), the body prioritizes carbs the most.
Glucose/blood sugar is the final form of all nutrients need to take in the body. The digestive system breaks them down to release energy for metabolism. Dietary fibre, though, is an exception as it doesn’t break down during digestion.
As highlighted above, the principal function of carbs is to provide energy. This energy powers the brain, muscles, kidneys, and the Central Nervous System (CNS). In fibre, it also aids bowel movement and helps to balance blood cholesterol levels.
As essential as carbs seem, one can still live on a diet abstaining from them. Known as a ketogenic diet, it drastically limits the availability of carbs, thereby forcing the body to utilize fats for energy.
Most people go on a keto diet to reduce weight. From a review in the British Journal of Nutrition, people who followed the keto diet lost an average of 0.9 kg more than others who went on a low-fat diet. It proved how efficient a very low-carb ketogenic diet was in reducing weight over a low-fat diet. The Keto diet has also helped diabetic cancer (by slowing tumour growth) and epileptic patients.
Owing to an adaptation to a keto diet, patients have noticed some doubtful symptoms. They include nausea, prolonged hunger, poor mental function, and sleep issues. Various advice has been given to such patients regarding their respective body manifestations. But if you want to consider a keto diet, it is generally advised to reduce carbs intake gradually rather than suddenly.
How should you eat Carbs?
Most nutritionists usually classify carbs into two categories; good and bad carbs. Essentially, good carbs contain higher fibre amounts than bad carbs and typically take longer to digest to synthesize energy. They are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bread, and foods made from wheat flour. Bad carbs contrastingly take a shorter time for their complete breakdown. Bakery snacks made from flour, processed rice, cake, cereals, white bread are regular bad carbs.
Although there isn’t any scientific research backing the cause behind the distinction, it’s just an easier way to think of healthy eating. It is better to eat whole grain high fibre foods than enriched low fibre ones. As earlier expounded, they are immensely advantageous in ensuring proper bowel movement. Fibre also regulates blood sugar levels and helps in achieving a healthy weight.
Regarding quantity, the amount of carbs intake depends on a few factors. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, breastfeeding women should take at least 210g of carbohydrates as Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) prescribes. Pregnant women should consume at least 175g while other adults can consume 130g of carbohydrates. You can consult a dietician for the right foods that could give that kind of amount, considering the category you are in.
According to Thrillist, White recommends carbs serving to be about ½ a cup to 1⁄3 of a cup for women. And about ¼ cups for men, both of complex carbs.
What are the risks of excess Carbs?
Owing to negligent reasons for inactivity, you may tend to consume more carbs than your body needs for energy. While carbs effectively energize the body, it also has its side effects from over-accumulation.
Weight gain is one of the most dreaded consequences of too many calorie-dense carbs. Ordinarily, when you take too many carb-based foods, body cells become saturated with glucose. Any more consumed carbs are ultimately converted to fats aided by insulin and stored in the fatty tissues.
Moreover, studies from Mayo Clinic researchers have proven that the favourable benefit of carbs on the brain could backfire. According to Rosebud Roberts, a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist, the effect is similar to type 2 diabetes.
For young people who complain of acne, excess carbs may also be among the reasons. Research has linked aggravated acne development to carbs intake, especially sugary foods. The breakout is due to increased insulin levels that stimulate oil gland production.
From surging cholesterol levels to mood swings and headaches, there could be many other symptoms of high carbs intake. Various factors could affect how it manifests, especially if you’ve previously had any health complications. Make a doctor’s appointment whenever you feel any slight discomfort. But if you are sure your distress is due to high carbs intake, then an adopted keto diet for a while, as discussed above, could help combat these undesired effects.
Originally published in Medium: The Scary World of Carbs: Why You Should And Shouldn’t Avoid Them