Anyone who’s ever tried to shift a few kilos knows that carbs are usually the first thing to go. It becomes all about bunless burgers and spiralled zoodles—you skip the toast in the morning, have a salad instead of a sandwich for lunch and dinner is strictly just veggies and protein.
But, as Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, Lyndi Cohen states: “Carbs are a really important part of our diet and shouldn’t be removed. You don’t have to cut out carbs. My advice is to simply make healthier carb choices. Choose naturally low GI carbs, which can help you feel satiated between meals and provide sustained energy release. You might be able to avoid carbs temporarily, but if you can’t maintain that lifestyle, any benefits you feel will be short lived.”
That said, cutting out carbs altogether can be extremely detrimental to your health in a number of different ways. Here’s what Lyndi wants you to know when it comes to carbs in your diet.
What happens when you cut carbs from your diet:
1. Your gut health is compromised
“Our gut health is linked with supporting healthy immunity, mood and energy. Cutting out carbs from your diet may compromise your gut health and new research shows that including 30+ different type of plant-based foods into your diet can actually boost gut health. When it comes to a healthy diet and gut health, getting enough variety is essential for getting a mix of nutrients in your diet. Cutting out an entire food group that include legumes, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables and dairy will drastically reduce the variety in your diet.”
“Numerous recent studies have linked moderate-carb diets, such as the Mediterranean and DASH diet, with an increased lifespan. Research shows that including low GI carbs, in particular, is an important part of overall health.”
2. You’ll lack energy
“Carbs are our bodies preferred energy source. When you cut carbs from your diet, consider what you will end up eating more of to compensate. Often cutting out carbs means eating more animal protein. Carbs are often recommended to eat before working out so you may notice a difference in your workouts—at least initially—when you don’t fuel with carbs.”
3. You can find it hard to concentrate
“When you first cut out carbs, your body has to begin using fat for energy by converting it into glucose. This may explain why you can feel weak, fatigued, dizzy and irritable or get a headache in the days or weeks after cutting out carbs. With time, your body will get better at using fat as a fuel source but it can take a while to get used to this.”
4. You’ll spend more money and time prepping food
“Many carbs are very convenient, affordable and easy to eat and meal prep. Cutting out carbs may require more of your time and a bigger commitment to cooking to ensure you’re still eating a healthy diet. Beyond the health impacts, cutting out carbs may be a bigger time and financial commitment too.”
Do you need to cut out carbs to lose weight?
“Realistically, the reason most people want to cut out carbs is they think it’ll help them lose weight, but according to the research, you don’t need to cut out carbs from your diet to lose weight or be healthy.”
“Carbohydrates contain fewer calories gram for gram than fat and tend to be a source of fibre, which is linked to a lower weight. You can be healthy, have a healthy weight and enjoy carbs by simply making healthier carb choices that are wholegrain carbs, ideally that are low GI.”
How to make healthier carbohydrate choices:
“Instead of cutting out carbs, simply create a healthy plate that can help you fuel your body with a balance of nutrients for the best energy. Your body will benefit, and you don’t have to miss out on the foods you love Swap high GI and processed carbs for high quality, low GI options which take longer to be digested, therefore releasing glucose into the bloodstream at a slower and more sustainable rate, which will help provide you with a slow release of energy for your day. For example, you can pair low GI carbs like rice with a source of healthy fats like avocado, a serve of lean protein like a couple of eggs and lots of colourful vegetables. Not many people know that rice is naturally gluten-free, which is great if you’re allergic or sensitive to gluten.”