Counting carbs: One solution for weight loss


Counting carbs: One solution for weight loss

The path to weight loss can be accomplished in several different ways.  Cut calories, cut back on fat, increase exercise, or all of the above. Then there is cutting back on carbohydrates also known as carbohydrate counting or simply counting carbs.  How effective is counting carbs for weight loss and just how helpful is it? 

The debate on the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is baffling to say the least.  Distinguished publications such as the Journal of the American Medical Association have supported the use of a low-carbohydrate diet for weight maintenance.  But even well-respected publications such as this with top-notch researchers have come under scrutiny from other physicians and scientists who don’t always share the same opinion.

As humans, our bodies need carbohydrates as they are our main source of energy.  All cells of the body and our brain require carbohydrates to function properly. 

What is a consumer to do?  You want to lose weight but you want to make sure it stays off long term.  Can cutting back on carbs be your answer for finally freeing yourself from the grip of the never ending cycle of weight loss diets?  Here is what you need to know of why counting carbs may be your solution:

·      Counting carbs can reduce calorie intake – For most of us, carbohydrates make up the bulk of where our calories come from of up to 55-60%. By reducing carbs but not totally eliminating them, this is a quick, efficient way to reduce calories and the amount of food you eat.   

·      Counting carbs can mean a healthier eating plan – For many Americans, most of the carb intake comes from white bread, white rice, processed foods such as crackers, cookies, cake, soft drinks, sweetened tea, juices, and sugary desserts.  When your carb intake is limited at each meal and snack, you will want to choose healthier carbohydrate food options such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains to replace the unhealthy carbs.  Healthy carbs contain plenty of valuable nutrients along with fiber helping them to break down more slowly in the body keeping you feeling less hungry during the day.   

·      Counting carbs means more room for increased protein intake – When carbs are reduced, you can increase your protein intake from lean animal or plant sources of this nutrient.  Lean protein helps build and maintain muscle mass along with slowing down digestion leading to greater satiety.  When we build more muscle mass through weight training and having adequate protein intake, this means our metabolism or the rate at which we burn calories is increase helping to maintain weight.  Aim for between 25-30 grams of protein at each meal.

·      Counting carbs can remind us to choose healthy sources of fat – Since carbs are being reduced, we should look for healthy fats to add into our diet.  Healthy sources of fats would include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, or mackerel.  These types of fat can aid in satiety along with helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.

·      Counting carbs could result in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes – When we constantly and consistently overload our body with too many carbs at each meal or snack, this floods our bloodstream with excess glucose.  Excess glucose forces our body to pump out more insulin to remove the sugar from the bloodstream into our body’s cells.  By reducing carbs and controlling the amount supplied at each meal and snack, this helps create a more even amount coming into the body at any one time making it easier to process glucose and reducing the amount of insulin needed. 

Is counting carbs for everyone?

Carbohydrate counting is used extensively for helping individuals with diabetes to better manage their condition but one does not have to have diabetes to follow this way of eating. It can and is a viable option for most people wanting to lose weight. 

Whether counting carbs is for everyone depends on how compliant a person will be following this eating plan and as long as they don’t have any special medical conditions that might restrict them from reducing carbohydrates.  Otherwise, counting carbs can be a very effective method of losing weight.  A registered dietitian will be your best source of teaching you how easy it is to count carbs for weight loss. 

This is not restricting carbs but rather placing the focus on keeping carbohydrates controlled at each meal and snack and learning to make healthier carbohydrate choices. Doing so will help you to improve the quality of your diet and health over time.