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When it comes to carbohydrates, we often hear negative things about them, such as how they increase hunger, make weight loss more difficult and make you tired. But all’s not true, ladies. Carbohydrates serve as your body’s main source of energy and help in the delivery of several vitamins and minerals. If you still avoid carbs or follow a low-carb diet for weight loss, you could experience some health problems in the long term.
HealthShots reached out to Hari Lakshmi, Consultant, Dietitian, and Nutritionist, Motherhood Hospitals, Alwarpet, Chennai, to understand why carbs are essential for your body and what can happen if you completely avoid them.
Why do we need carbs?
One of the three important macronutrients that our body requires to function properly is carbohydrates. They give the body glucose, which is then transformed into energy for maintaining bodily functions and physical activity.
Still, many diet regimens advocate cutting back on or even completely avoiding carbohydrates in order to lose weight or improve health. While cutting back on carbs can have certain advantages, the expert warns that avoiding carbs entirely may be harmful to our body.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, following a low-carbohydrate diet can have a number of negative impacts, such as an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Also, restricting carbohydrates is linked to reduced longevity, but diets high in healthy carbohydrates including fruits, vegetables, and legumes are good for your health.
Side effects of a low-carb diet
Lakshmi says each nutrient has its own responsibility and therefore they are all important. Like all other nutrients, a lack of carbs in your diet can affect your body in these ways:
Lack of energy is among the most important consequences of cutting out carbohydrates. The body needs carbohydrates as its main energy source; otherwise, it must resort to other sources like fat and protein. While this process, known as ketosis, can help people lose weight, it also causes fatigue and drowsiness in the body. This might make it challenging to concentrate and carry out daily duties, such as exercising, which makes the lack of energy even worse.
2. Increased hunger
Avoiding carbs can also lead to increased feelings of hunger and cravings. Carbs are essential to regulate blood sugar levels, and without them blood sugar levels can drop, causing hunger and cravings for other sources of glucose, such as sugar. This can lead to overeating and weight gain, which can undo any potential benefits of a low-carb diet.
Also read: If you’re planning to cut down on carbs to lose weight, stop RN. Here’s the right way to do it
Another side effect of avoiding carbs is constipation. Carbs provide fiber, which helps regulate digestion and keep things moving smoothly. Without enough fiber, you may experience constipation, bloating, and other digestive issues.
4. Brain fog
If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your brain won’t get the necessary amount of glucose to maintain mood and mental wellness. Hence, you can experience mood swings, sleep problems, and a groggy feeling as your body struggles to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
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5. Nutritional deficiency
Avoiding carbs can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Carbs are found in many foods that also contain other essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. When you avoid these foods, you may miss out on these nutrients, which can lead to a host of health issues.
Know the difference between healthy and unhealthy carbs
The issue with carbohydrates is twofold: first, which kind of carbs of carbohydrates you should eat, and second, how much quantity you should take each day. Also, understand that a low-carb diet is unhealthy, and so is consuming too many carbohydrates.
Before including carbohydrates in your diet, you should be aware that there are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugar, while complex carbohydrates are starch and fiber. So it is crystal clear that you need complex carbs in your regular diet, not simple carbohydrates which can lead to problems like weight gain.
To meet your daily needs for healthy carbs, eat beans, such as black beans or kidney beans, fresh or seasonal fruits, berries, yogurt, seeds, almonds, and quinoa.
Low-carb diets can be helpful, but cutting out all carbohydrates might have negative impacts on our health. In order for our bodies to continue functioning at their best, it is crucial to make sure we are still consuming adequate nutrition. Hence, it is advised to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any drastic changes in the diet, including reducing carb intake.