Low-carb diets are a trend that just won’t seem to disappear. For some people low-carb diets seem to work. At least for a while. Diets that drastically cut down on carbohydrates are meant to completely shift the way in which our bodies create energy. This leads to weight loss. However, it is important to know that our bodies are not actually meant to function in this way.
Carbohydrates are meant to be our main source of energy. It is suggested that they make up somewhere around fifty percent of our daily calories. Dramatically reducing our carbohydrate intake sends our bodies into a state similar to starvation. In a nutshell, starving our bodies of carbohydrates causes it to use fat stores for energy. This, of course, leads to weight loss. Although this might sound wonderful, it is technically a process meant to keep us alive during times of famine. The long term health effects remain somewhat unclear, but some studies suggest that maintaining this state can negatively impact bone and kidney health, alter hormonal activity, and lead to decreased energy levels (1, 2, 3). Low-carb diets are also difficult to maintain. This often leads people to gain back any weight that they lose.
All of this being said, decreasing carbohydrates might not necessarily be a terrible idea. In today’s modern world we often consume too many carbs. Our highly processed, high sugar diets often lead us to consume an imbalanced amount of nutrients. Our diets are not only higher in carbohydrates than they should be, but also high in calories.
The ideal solution is not to focus on one single nutrient, but rather on the balance of nutrients overall. A healthy diet consists of nutritious foods consumed in reasonable portions and proper ratios. This means that each meal should offer a healthy serving of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It should also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Although many people think that there is a miracle formula for weight loss, the best solution might be to provide our bodies with what they need and let nature do the rest. Proper diet and exercise helps to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It may also prevent certain forms of cancer, and simply keeps us functioning at our best.
Each meal is an opportunity to do something good for our bodies. Mealtime should be less about what we cannot have and more about flooding our bodies with the all of the good things they need. So the next time you are considering a low-carb diet, opt for a healthy, balanced diet instead. Your body will thank you for it.
- Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, Wong WA, Hachey DL, Garcia-Logo E, and Ludwig DD. Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance. JAMA. 2012;307:267-2634.
- Sumithran P, Proietto J. Ketogenic diets for weight loss: A review of their principles, safety and efficacy. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 2008;2(1):1-13.
- White AM, Johnston CS, Swan PD, Tjonn SL, Sears B. Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: A pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107(10):1792-1796.