Do you consider carbs to be the “alluring” monster, which just won’t let you lose weight, and you can’t be able to resist your carb cravings? Well, if yes, you are not the only one living with this thought. Carbs or carbohydrates are the compounds in foods that mostly occur in the form of sugar, starch and fiber. The reason it is dreaded so much is due to its tendency to cause a tremendous sugar spike. And, this is what makes you obese!
With this background, it makes sense to limit carb in the meals to get a slender, fit body. In fact, recently this idea has paced up in the form of several weight loss diet plans, of which keto diet plan with its “high-fat and low-carb” agenda has gained immense popularity.
However, a general misconception prevails that carbs are harmful and must be eliminated from the diet. Truth is, all carbs are not evil and you must not consume a zero carb meal.
Why Carbs are Essential?
Carbohydrates are just as important as other nutrients like fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is one of the key components of a balanced diet. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy. They provide fuel to all the cells, tissues and organs of our body to stay healthy and active. Therefore, incorporating fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains and more are crucial to maintain your bodily functions. Cutting down on carbs entirely will prompt your body to use up the proteins for energy, leading to serious health issues like muscle wasting, low energy and so on.
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs What’s the Difference?
While carbs are essentially important to keep us fit, not all carbs are healthy. The only thing that makes a carb unhealthy is “processing.” Processed or ‘bad’ carbs are the culprits you should look out for. White rice, white bread, bagels, sugary cereal, regular pasta and several other highly processed carbs can cause obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, heart diseases, stroke and many other ailments. According to Dr. David Ludwig, professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, processed carbs top the list of foods causing diabetes and weight gain.
Ludwig also explains how exactly processed carbs cause these complications. He says that refined and processed carbs act just like sugar in the body. When consumed, they quickly melt into glucose and cause a sharp rise in blood glucose levels. This sugar spike evokes the release of a hormone, called insulin. Insulin drives the glucose from the blood to the liver, muscle and fat cells in the body. And since fat cells bear a limitless potential to store calories, they grow and the blood glucose crashes instantly. This provokes your hunger, causing you to binge on more carbs to make up for the energy loss.
So, now you know carbs are addictive. In fact, the more refined and more processed carb you will consume, the more you would crave for it. This might make it impossible to get out of this vicious cycle of carb addiction. Also, processed carbs may increase your stress levels.
Fortunately, breaking your cravings for unhealthy carbs is not an invincible goal.
How to Curb Your Carb Cravings?
The foremost point to remember is that you need not aim for a zero-carb diet. Instead, your focus should be on increasing your intake of good carbs and get rid of the bad ones. The following diet plan will help you curb your cravings of carb.
- Cut Down on Starchy Carbs: Starchy carbs include rice, pasta, bread, bagels, chips, cookies, pretzels, cake and pizza. Since these can dramatically affect your blood glucose levels, go for healthier carbs. The first week of your carb de-addiction should include eggs, cheese and berries for breakfast, beans with grilled chicken salad for lunch, an apple or yogurt for snack, and fish or veggies for dinner.
- Slash the Sugary Carbs: Sugar-sweetened beverages and candies directly enter the bloodstream and shoot up the blood glucose level while providing no nutrition. Hence, refrain from sugary carbs to lead a healthy life.
- Include Fats in the Diet: Ludwig suggests that increasing healthy fats in your daily diet can prove effective in curbing your craving for processed carbs. So, include nuts, avocado, nut butters, dark chocolate, olive oil and full-fat dairy in your diet.
- Add High-Quality Starchy Carbs in Breakfast: After the first week of zero processed carbs, you can gradually include high-quality starchy carbs in your breakfast. A registered dietitian based out of New York City, Tamara Duker Freuman says that eating starchy carbs in breakfast produces less chaos in your blood sugar levels as compared to other mealtimes. So, don’t skip breakfast and do include carbs in it.
Choose high-quality carbs, i.e., minimally processed grains along with whole fruits, non-starchy vegetables and beans. These carbs are slow to digest and helps maintain a steady blood sugar levels. Ludwig says that if one eats wheat berries, the body has to digest the intact grain kernel, which is a slow process. But, flour, produced by milling wheat berries, is easy to digest, which can cause sugar spikes.
High-quality carbs for breakfast should include nuts with steel-cut oats, cinnamon and seeds, berries with rye crisp bread and scrambled eggs, beans or Greek yogurt with fruits.
- Add High-Starchy Carbs in Lunch: Now, you can add minimally processed grains to your lunch as well. These may include quinoa or chickpea salad, lentil or bean soups, a whole-grain bread sandwich or a mushroom barley soup. You can also have a chickpea pasta or whole- wheat pasta along with veggies.
Tips for Long-Term
Now, that you have traversed three weeks without processed carbs, you need to sustain the plan to minimize the health complications in future. This can be done by following some simple tips, given below.
- Avoid Starchy Carbs in Dinner: Having starchy carbs in dinner leads to maximum sugar spike, posing a high risk for metabolic disturbances. Also, the carb consumed in dinner is least likely to be used up for energy and will eventually be stored as fat. So, end your day with a light meal!
- Limit Refined Carbs: It may seem impossible to completely cut down on the consumption of refined carbs like white rice, pizza, white bread and more. So, set a realistic goal. Eat them, but less frequently; ideally, once or twice a week.
- Say ‘NO’ to Added Sugars: Added sugars can mess up with your blood sugar levels. So, refrain from having added sugars. However, if you have a sweet tooth, limit your treats to 100 to 150 calories a day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans  recommend having less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
The bottom line is that shun the bad carbs and replace them with good carbs. A Balanced diet is an unavoidable factor to stay healthy. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that 45 to 65% of calories should come from carbohydrates, 20 to 35% from fats and 10 to 35% from proteins. Hence, do not deprive your body of any essential nutrient. Moderation is the key! However, you must consult your dietitian and physician before implementing this diet plan.