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Food Myths Debunked: Eating Carbohydrates Will Cause You to Gain Weight

Jul 1, 2010

When the Atkins and South Beach diets were at the height of their popularity in the 1990s, carbohydrates became public enemy number one. People were banishing bread and potatoes from their diets at a frenetic pace. Then those same people began having health problems from eating too few carbohydrates. These problems range from weakness that caused fainting spells to hair falling out and bad breath. Research studies have since shown that more serious side effects such as increased incidence of developing diabetes and heart disease. Prevailing wisdom now says we should choose healthier carbohydrates that are whole grain, and limit the ones with little or no nutritional value.

The Benefits of Carbohydrates

Some carbohydrates which health professionals refer to as "good carbohydrates" can be good friends to your diet. Here are some attributes of good carbohydrates:

  • High in fiber which lowers your cholesterol.
  • Have a glycemic index rating. The glycemic index is a system that rates a foods effect on peoples blood glucose levels.
  • High in nutrients.
  • Provides a stable energy level without spiking your glucose levels.
  • Boosts metabolism and helps you lose fat.

Healthy Carbohydrates

When you are looking for healthy carbohydrates, look for the unprocessed (or very little processed) carbohydrates. Foods that have little or no alteration from their natural state are vital to your good health. The following is a list of carbohydrates that are considered by most professionals to be healthy for you:

  • Arugula, which has a peppery taste
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Legumes
  • Mustard greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard, which tastes a bit like spinach 
  • Whole grain breads 
  • Whole grain pastas

Carbohydrates to Avoid

Processed carbohydrates, such as the baked goodies in your local grocery store, have all of the healthy nutrients and fiber removed during their processing. The problem with these carbs is that the human body does not process them well. In fact, these types can cause spikes in blood sugar which can lead to diabetes. They also provide almost no nutritional value and are considered empty calories. Other diseases that are linked to processed carbohydrate consumption include cancer and heart disease. The following processed carbohydrates should be limited to only occasional consumption:

  • Candies
  • Most baked goods
  • Non-diet soft drinks
  • Snack foods
  • White breads and pastas

The Dangers of Too Few Carbohydrates

Eating too few carbohydrates can cause low energy levels, digestive problems and deprive your body of beneficial nutrients. The following list shows some of the problems that people have had from not consuming enough carbohydrates:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches 

More serious consequences can include kidney stones and heart disease. Another possible side effect is a higher risk of certain cancers when you severely limit vegetables and whole grains.

Consensus

Limiting highly processed carbohydrates is always a wise idea. Cutting out good carbohydrates can backfire and make you gain weight instead of lose it. It can also cause health problems that range from being annoying to being life threatening. Health professionals recommend cutting out processed carbohydrates while being careful not to cut down on good carbohydrates too much.

A healthy diet must include some carbohydrates. If you obsessively cut your carbohydrate consumption it can backfire and defeat your diet plans. Focus on cutting out the bad carbohydrates and making wise choice substitutions with good carbohydrates.

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