Why it’s ok to eat carbs

eat carbs blog title

In my first phase of weight loss, four years ago, I had to make a few changes. I gave up most carbs (though I was allowed to eat them on exercise days) including some fruit, dairy (I wasn’t vegan at the time) and processed meat. Everything was lean, clean, and home-cooked.

Of course, I lost a lot of weight in the first month and then I was allowed to slowly re-introduce whatever I wanted in my diet, as long as I kept a daily calorie intake of 1200kcal. That was ridiculously low, and I talk about it in this video.

Every phase of my weight loss taught me something. And here’s what I learned from not eating carbs.

Why low-carb diets work (but they’re not sustainable)

1.When you don’t eat carbs, you don’t eat the fat that comes with them either

It’s not the potatoes that make you put on weight, it’s the fact that they’re deep fried.

It’s not the sugar in the doughnuts that adds on the pounds, it’s the amount of fat in them.

It’s not the pasta at fault, it’s the fact that it’s bathing in oily sauce.

1g of carbs has 4kcal, but 1g of fat has 9, so let’s do the math on a small to medium potato. If you cook it without oil, it will have about 100kcals. Add one single tablespoon (15g) of olive oil, and you make it 235kcal. And honestly, who uses only 1 tbsp of oil? So why are you blaming the potato??

Let’s look at the nutritional values on a pack of crisps. A pack has 25g.

Let’s compare the carbs and fat values. Out of those 130kcal:

  • From fat you have: 9kcal x 7.7g = 69.3kal, more than half of the pack
  • From carbs you have: 4kcal x 13.2g = 52.8kcal, less than the fat values

Remember that even if there’s less fat in weight, it’s much more energy dense so it gives you more calories. Don’t hate the potato.

2. Carbs store water in the body

So when you stop eating carbs, you lose a lot of water weight. Though it can be a good confidence boost at the beginning, it’s the type of weight that comes back on quickly.

Why eat carbs

1. Energy

They’re the preferred energy source for the body.

2. Mood

Studies show that a diet rich in carbs is better for the mood and you’re more likely to be depressed on low-carb diets.

3. Vitamins

Fruit, vegetables, grains, beans – they’re all carb based.

ot eating carbs would put you at risk of deficiencies. Although we can supplement some of the vitamins in pill form (e.g. Vit. D), some don’t work. For example, antioxidants in supplement form are not effective, so you’re better off eating some strawberries. 

4. Fibre

Fibre is found both in the skin and the flesh of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains and keeps your digestive system happy (fights constipation and moves the food faster). It also lowers cholesterol and keeps you full for longer.

5. Variety

You have so much to choose from!

What carbs to eat

When it comes to carbs, quality matters. If you want stable blood sugar levels and not feel hungry 30 minutes after you ate, of course. For high blood sugar, go with the donut. Kidding…

Though there’s nothing wrong with having some white bread, pasta, and even white table sugar, most of your carbs should come from:

  • Whole grains and foods made of whole grains (wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta or noodles)
  • All types of beans, including soy (soy’s not the bad guy, I promise – see some details in this blog post about breast cancer)
  • A variety of fruit and vegetables

To give you some ideas, some of my favourite combos:

  • Wholewheat noodles stir fry with aubergines, mushrooms, courgettes and tofu
  • Beans and mushrooms stew
  • Baked potatoes with garlic sauce
  • Wholewheat pasta with green lentils and tomato sauce
  • Mediterranean grilled veggies with couscous or bulgur wheat
  • Porridge with berries

Interested in any of the recipes? Let me know.

How much to eat

Whatever the food group, the problem when it comes to weight management is not WHAT we eat, but HOW MUCH we eat. Portion control is essential, but we get it wrong most often than not.

Every food has a certain recommended portion size.

For example:

  • most cereals have a recommended portion size of 30g
  • a portion of potatoes is 1 medium potato
  • 1 slice of bread or half a bagel
  • half a cup of rice

Visually, I try to fit it in the size of a fist. For more on this, check out the Healthy Eating Guidelines blog post.

As usual, let me know if this was useful for you and if you’re interested in any of my favourite recipes.

Who else loves potatoes?

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