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Published on April 18, 2018

low-carb diet craze-is it for you?

Low-carb diet craze

…Is it really something you should do?

We're a couple of months into 2018, which means that it might be time to assess your progress and re-evaluate your goal to eat healthier. In an effort to do so, some of you might have elected to adopt a low-carb diet such as Atkins, Whole 30, Paleo or the latest low-carb diet on the block, ketogenic. By now, you may have found that you are sick of the diet and want to stop. Questions may arise: Should I go back to eating carbs? What carbs are the best to eat and which ones to stay away from? Let's provide clarity on carbohydrates.

What is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates (or "carbs") are a source of calories, which give you energy. You also get calories and energy from proteins and fats. All three are essential to life, but everyone requires a different ratio of them depending on factors such as age, gender, activity, disease management, weight loss, etc.

What are carbohydrates used for?

Carbs, proteins and fats are broken down and used by your body differently. Carbohydrates are digested fastest and are the body's preferred source of energy. Some carbohydrates are digested more quickly than others and affect blood sugars and satiety differently.

Carbohydrate sources that also contain fiber are typically of higher quality. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all good sources of fiber and high-quality carbohydrates. The fiber is non-digestible, therefore taking up room in the stomach and helping to fill you up quicker and keep you full longer. Rather than skipping carbohydrates entirely, swap out processed carbohydrates such as added sugars and refined grains with fiber-containing carbohydrate sources to help control weight. The daily recommendation for an adult is 25-38 grams of fiber per day, but the average American typically only consumes about 10-12 grams per day. This is one area of our diet that could stand some improvement.

Should I cut out carbohydrates to be successful with weight loss?

Research shows that in a six-month trial comparing a low-carb diet to a balanced and calorie controlled diet, low-carb diet followers can have a higher amount of weight loss. Yet, at one year of following either diet, the amount of weight loss evens out. The main reason for this is the rigidity of a low carb diet (not a lot of choices when major food groups such as grains, fruits and dairy are cut out). People following a low carb diet get tired of not having those choices of variety. There are also potential negative health effects from following a low-carb diet.

For long-term weight loss follow a balanced diet rich in fiber containing carbohydrates, lean protein and heart healthy fats which is easy to continue to help maintain that weight loss. Seek a registered dietitian to help you learn how to eat balanced and live a healthier life!

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Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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