Most people have a love-hate relationship with carbs. And it is not difficult to see why! But whatever your take on carbohydrates, I believe, the best way forward is to have a balanced approach.
Do it in moderation! This means: Don’t shun carbohydrates completely. Carbs provide energy and nutrition, and a healthy intake is essential for the body. Similarly, don’t overindulge either. Carbs can be notoriously addictive. Over-consuming carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar, cause insulin resistance and lead to type 2 diabetes.
Controlling carbohydrate consumption is tricky at best. There are good carbs that are unquestionably essential. And there are bad carbs that can severely hamper your health. Carbs from processed foods and refined carbs are an absolute no-no. The way you prepare carbohydrate-rich foods can have an effect on their energy content. And this is crucial for weight watchers.
With so much information going around, it is likely to get confusing. Fret not. Trust your body. Read the signals. And do your best. Here’s what you need to do just that.
1. Consider Why You Need Carbohydrates
Carbs are a part of a wholesome balanced meal. They are the power-source and fuel that drive the body. Anywhere between 45-65% of the body’s energy needs are satisfied by carbohydrates alone. They pump up your stamina, support sustained muscle function and keep you working through the day.
Consuming carbohydrates, of course in the right amount, can prevent the body from breaking down proteins for energy. This is highly unwanted as it could lead to muscle loss.
What is more? Carbs help in brain function and they play a role in gut and kidney health as well.
2. What is the RDA For Carbohydrates?
The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, is a measure that allows you to identify how much of carb intake is okay – 135 grams per day for men, women and children. 175 grams for pregnant women and 210 grams for those women who are breastfeeding.
While RDA is designed to meet the minimum needs for most people in the respective age and gender categories, there are no specific considerations made for generic makeup, body-mass ratio, and exercising habits.
RDA can definitely serve as a baseline, but it is in no way etched in stone! The optimal amount of carb one should consume can vary significantly from person to person. People with eating disorders, health issues and dietary complications must consult with a Health Coach (or other healthcare professionals) before altering their diet.
3. What Happens When You Over-eat Carbs?
Over-eating carbs can be disastrous for health. Here are a few ways in which it can affect you:
- Poor blood-sugar control and insulin resistance: Eating carbohydrates in excess can cause your blood-sugar levels to spike. If these swings are experienced continually, you risk contacting insulin resistance and diabetes.
Constantly surging blood with high levels of blood-glucose in it can impact the tension in the arteries causing inflammation and damage to the lining.
- Obesity and weight gain: Unspent carbohydrates can quickly accumulate in the body and cause you to gain weight. A sedentary lifestyle combined with a carbohydrate-rich diet can make the condition permanent with obesity.
- Brain fog: Increased carb intake can decrease the cognitive functioning of the brain. The effects can be varied, ranging from mild confusion to nervousness and feelings of being ‘spaced out’.
- Gastrointestinal distress: Breaking down carbohydrates has been known to have an unpleasant side-effect – gas. As gas builds up quickly in the digestive tract, you can experience discomfort, abdominal distress, bloating, belching and flatulence.
- Issues from increased triglyceride levels: Diets rich in fructose, glucose and sucrose can trigger the formation of triglycerides or ‘blood fats’. Triglycerides are a form of cholesterol that lead to plaque building up in your arteries. This condition is associated with cardiovascular disorders, heart attacks and strokes.
4. What Happens When You Under-consume Carbs?
On the other hand, if you reduce your intake of carbohydrates drastically there are other issues you could face. Here are a few symptoms that your diet is lacking in carbs:
- Tiredness and fatigue: The body requires the energy carbs deliver and without a proper quantity of carbohydrates in the diet you can feel fatigued and tired.
- Miss out on all that fibre: Carb-rich whole foods are often good sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Take, for example, tubers such as sweet-potato, and legumes such as chickpea and broad-bean.
- Nutrition loss: Carb-rich whole foods also contain a number of other nutrients such as B-group vitamins.
- Hypoglycemia: This situation occurs when glucose levels in the blood drop below normal. Hypoglycemia can cause type 1 diabetes.
- Ketosis: Eating less than the recommended amount of carbohydrate can cause a build-up of ketones – or partially broken-down fats in the blood. Severe ketosis can lead to swelling in the joints and stones in the kidney and gallbladder.