There’s more and more evidence every day pointing to the reasons why you should eat less carbs to benefit your health. Let’s dive into to some reasons why.
A low-carb diet is a powerful tool to lose weight, but in addition to that, it also potentially helps avoid conditions such as type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea. For decades we’ve been told to reduce our fat intake, and follow low-fat dietary guidelines. Scientific research now shows that low-carb diets have major health benefits, and in fact, low-fat, high carb diets can be detrimental to our health.
The food we eat converts to glucose in the blood (blood sugar). When we consume too much food with high levels of sugar and starch, our body will increase its insulin production to try and process the excess.
- Too much glucose causes our body to produce too much insulin
- Too much sugar and insulin can lead to metabolic syndrome
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome, originally known as Syndrome X and now increasingly known as the Hyperinsulinaemia Syndrome1, is a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
The world’s obsession with low-fat diets over the last few decades has resulted in a slew of health problems. The low-fat approach to dieting promoted by the American Dietetic Association (now Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) and others, promoting the consumption of mass-produced crops such as sugar cane, wheat and corn has resulted in an obesity epidemic.
One of the other byproducts of these guidelines was a rise in the conditions that cause metabolic syndrome. And while metabolic syndrome is caused by multiple factors, it also CAUSES multiple diseases.
These are some of the current diseases that are attributed to metabolic syndrome:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Metabolism of Carbohydrates
Your body uses carbohydrates as its main source of fuel. Complex carbohydrates (starches) are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They are then absorbed into your bloodstream.
In general, natural complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and have less effect on blood sugar. Rising levels of blood sugar trigger the body to release insulin. Insulin helps glucose enter the body’s cells. Some glucose is used by your body for energy, fueling all of your activities whether it’s going for a run or simply breathing. Extra glucose is usually stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.
How Much Carbs is Too Much?
Low carb is often defined as any diet of below 100 grams of carbs per day. An average Western diet can easily contain 250 grams of carbs or more in a day, most of them refined carbs, including sugar.
Generally speaking, the fewer carbs you consume, the more effective your weight loss will be. When you eat fewer carbs, your body needs to find other sources of energy. One of the sources of energy it turns to is the fat stores in your body (Yeah – the ones that you stare at, wishing they would disappear!). Therefore, when you eat less carbs, it causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss.
7 Reasons You Should Eat Less Carbs
1. Supports weight loss
If you’re looking to lose weight, cutting carbs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do it. When you lower your carb intake, there’s less glucose coming into your system. This means more stable blood sugar, which then lowers insulin in the body.
When there’s less glucose to use as energy and less insulin telling the body what to do with that glucose, the body can begin to burn stored fat for energy instead! This is the basic mechanism behind a low carb diet that can lead to weight loss and reduced body fat.
While initially, some of the weight loss is because you lose excess water weight, this can actually be helpful! Here is how it works:
- Insulin: When insulin goes down, the kidneys begin to shed excess sodium from the body. This also lowers blood pressure.
- Glycogen: The body stores carbs in the form of glycogen, which binds water in the muscles and liver. When carb intake goes down, glycogen levels in the body go down, and the water follows along.
The low carb diet also helps reduce hunger, making it a more sustainable lifestyle. This is because when carbs are restricted and insulin levels go down, the fat isn’t “sealed” away in the fat cells anymore and becomes accessible for the body to use as energy, meaning you have fewer reasons to keep snacking because you aren’t as hungry all the time!
2. Targets fat
A greater proportion of fat loss comes from your abdominal cavity. Not all fat is the same, fat can be divided into types which are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the jiggly fat visible just underneath the skin, and visceral fat is the kind you can’t see, but it accumulates within the abdominal cavity located near several vital organs, including the liver, stomach, and intestines.
A low carb lifestyle works at removing both types of fat which not only helps you look slimmer but also drastically reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
3. It’s healthy for your heart
A low carb diet’s effect on reducing cholesterol can, in turn, reduce the risk of having heart complications. There are two types of cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, and the “good” cholesterol. A low carb diet reduces the “bad” cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) while it increases the “good” cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
A high percentage of the fat lost on a low carb diet comes from the belly area and the liver. This is the dangerous fat that builds up in and around the organs and is the driving force for heart disease and other health complications. Even people who look thin on the outside can have fatty liver disease.
Triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in your bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides are a strong heart disease risk factor. When you cut carbs you tend to experience a very dramatic reduction in blood triglycerides.
4. Reduces blood sugar and insulin levels
Around 9.3 percent of the global adult population suffered from diabetes in 2019. Low-carb and ketogenic diets are proven to help people with diabetes and insulin resistance.
Cutting down on carbs drastically lowers both blood sugar and insulin levels. A ketogenic diet may offer hope to people with type 2 diabetes who have difficulty controlling their symptoms. Not only do many people feel better with fewer diabetic symptoms, but they may also be less dependent on medications. Always consult your doctor before undertaking a new eating regime.
5. Helps with acne
Acne has many different causes and one of them can be linked to your blood sugar levels and your diet. A diet that consists of processed and refined carbohydrates is often the main dietary culprit in causing acne. Many people report that their skin is much clearer as a result of following a low-carb diet. So if you’re suffering from acne, reducing your carb intake could work for you!
6. Can protect your brain
Your brain needs glucose, as some parts of it can only burn this type of sugar. That’s why your liver produces glucose from protein if you don’t eat any carbs. Yet, a large part of your brain can also burn ketones (if cells don’t get enough glucose, your body burns fat for energy instead. This produces a substance called ketones).
Some studies suggest that the ketones generated while your body is in a state of ketosis actually provide neuroprotective benefits, which means they can strengthen and protect the brain and nerve cells.
7. Highly effective against Metabolic Syndrome
You already know what metabolic syndrome is, but something you may not know is how many people are actually affected by it. Metabolic Syndrome affects 24% of the US adult population. The global prevalence can be estimated to be about one quarter of the world population. In other words, over a billion people in the world are now affected with metabolic syndrome.
Since metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions like abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high “bad” cholesterol like triglycerides and low “good” cholesterol levels like HDL – a low carb diet is incredibly effective in managing all of these conditions and symptoms.
What is important to remember is that low carb diets are most effective and have the greatest positive impact when sticking to them long term. Many people start a low carb diet to lose weight or improve their health, but then go back to eating as they once did as soon as they see some progress. This often leads to gaining back all weight that was lost or seeing old health problems resurface. Low carb diets truly are most beneficial when they’re adopted as a low carb lifestyle.
With that being said, if you didn’t already have a reason to start to eat less carbs and are just curious about how you could boost your health, a low-carb diet is the way to go. If you have more questions, you may find them answered here.