With the increased awareness of physical fitness among the Nepalese populace, it is essential that we assess the importance of carbs before avoiding them completely.

These days with more people being health conscious, many have started aiming for a “zero carb diet.” But what one doesn’t know about such diets is its sustainability; people opt for such diets without assessing the importance of carbs in our daily meals. Carbs can be a puzzling subject to discuss because of the difficulty in identifying between good carbs and bad carbs. Senior Clinical Nutritionist Prachi Jain from Nepal Mediciti talks us through all things carb.

What are Carbs?

Carbohydrate is one of the most important nutrients, which is present in almost every food product we consume. It fuels our body with all the energy we need to perform our routinely activities.

What are the benefits of carbs?

Different types of carbohydrates succour the body in different ways—fibres like buckwheat and oats for example assists in digestion, maintain bowel health, help you feel full, and keep blood cholesterol levels in check.

The energy from carbohydrates in food items we consume daily like fruits, vegetables, breads, and dairy products are used by the body to make glucose—our body’s main energy source.

The “zero carb diet”

Excluding carbs from our diet is impractical as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy all contain carbs and are essential to a salubrious diet.  Zero carb diets completely restrict carbohydrate and focus on fats and proteins by concentrating on food like meat, eggs, cheese and seafood—which contain nearly zero carbohydrates. Following this diet means cutting out not only sugars and grains, but also on fruits and vegetables, which are high in nutrient density.

Low-carb diets can eventually cause a condition called ketosis especially if you are consuming less than 50 grams per day. When the body is not being provided with sufficient carbs, the blood sugar level falls, and the body begins to release fats from the fat tissues to use as energy.  Ketosis may be effective for weight loss, but sustaining it means having a high-fat diet, which can eventually have adverse health effects like injury to brain cells that help control your body weight.

How much carb is too much carb?

While carbs are foundational for a healthy diet, if not consumed in the right amount, it can have detrimental impacts on the body. “An average adult should obtain about 55-65% of the daily calorie requirement in the form of carbohydrates. However, daily calorie requirement varies for each individual depending on age, gender and activity,” Prachi advises.

If carbs are not consumed in the right amount it is not only fattening, but is also a trigger for diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, dental caries and even some forms of cancer.

Good carbs vs. bad carbs

There is a common misconception among people that consuming even minimal amount of carb increases body weight—no matter the source of carbs. This is due the inability of people to identify between good carbs and bad carbs; not all foods contain equal carb content.

Prachi states, “Good carbs are low in calories, high in nutrients, and are devoid of refined sugars, cholesterol and trans fats. Bad carbs on the other hand are exactly the opposite—full of refined sugar, and sometimes high in cholesterol and trans fat.” So the next time you decide to have a glass of sweetened beverage or brown rice and curry or pancakes with maple syrup, you’ll surely know which carb to have and which ones to skip.

Conquering your carb cravings

When you first start dieting, it may seem like you can never get enough of carb in your meals. This is because carbs are highly addictive and it could take almost a month to detox from the most addictive refined carbohydrates.

Detoxing yourself from all the desirable carbohydrates does not have to be rocket science. The general advice is to hydrate your body, drink lots of water—maybe even add citrus to your water, and opt for a fruit. The mechanism for thirst in the brain is so weak that we often confuse it for hunger.                                                        

Cut back on bread and refined rice, and choose low-carb snacks like avocado, berries and dark chocolate. Go for foods rich in fibre, like whole grains, which include buckwheat and brown rice instead of refined. They tend to fill your belly comparatively faster, and also help boost metabolism.

The next time you visit restaurants, why not ask for vegetables instead of potatoes or bread on the sides? Not only are veggies low on calories, but they also contain plenty of nutrients that help you feel healthy and energized.

Prachi opines, “It is always advisable to eat a well balanced diet. Since the calorie requirement is different for each individual, we should try to eat food rich in all the nutrients. Eat a variety of food and have short and frequent meals. “