Why We Can Still Totally Lose Weight While Enjoying Carbs

Carbs may have gotten a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss, but not all carbs are created equal. Read on to learn more about this important nutrient and how to choose the right carbs for your eating pattern.
Published September 9, 2021
What are Carbs?

Carbohydrates – or “carbs” for short – are one of three macronutrients your body requires for proper functioning. The other macronutrients are protein and fat, and each of these are needed to provide your body with a source of energy in the form of calories.

Carbs specifically refer to the sugars, starches, and fibres found in foods such as grain products, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and foods with added sugar. While pasta and bread may be top of mind when you think of carbs, they are found in a wide range of foods.

How Your Body Uses Carbs for Energy

Carbs are your body’s main source of energy. Ideally, anywhere from 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs. Once consumed, carbs are digested and broken down into sugar or glucose. That glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream, before it’s moved into the cells of your brain, muscles, and other organs that rely on glucose for energy.

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars are simple carbs that provide a quick source of energy for your body. Naturally occurring sugars can be found in foods such as fruit, fruit juice, milk and dairy products, white and brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Added sugars can be found in foods such as sweetened cereals, baked goods, jams, candy, and flavoured yogurts.
  • Starches are complex carbs that are broken down more slowly than sugars, and provide a slower release of energy to your body. Starches are found in plant-based foods, including whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, and bread; legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils; and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and corn.
  • Fibres are found in plant-based foods, but they are not broken down and do not provide a source of energy for your body. Instead, fibre provides other health benefits such as reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, and helping to maintain bowel regularity. Fibre is found in vegetables and fruit; whole grains such as barley, brown rice, and quinoa; and legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

Why Do Carbs Have Such a Bad Reputation?

Carbs are a misunderstood nutrient, with many people worried they’ll gain weight if they eat them. Over the years, several low-carb diets have popped up on the scene. They typically promote easy weight loss under the premise that by reducing the amount of carbs you consume, the more fat your body will burn. In reality, by restricting carbs you deprive your body of its main fuel source glucose, along with many other nutrients you need for overall good health.

It’s important to remember that not all carbs are created equal. The problem with carbs isn’t carbs themselves, but rather with the type and quantity of carbs you choose to consume. Highly processed refined grains and sugary foods can increase blood sugar levels and prompt your body to release insulin, making weight loss more challenging. On the other hand, choosing higher quality whole grains and complex carbs that are rich in fibre or protein are nutritional powerhouses that can certainly be enjoyed as part of your weight loss journey.

Yes, You Can Lose Weight While Eating Carbs – Here’s Why

It’s time to stop fearing carbs and understand that many carb-rich foods can still be enjoyed while you are trying to lose weight. Here are some tips for how to do that:

Choose Whole, Unprocessed Carbs. Instead of cutting carbs, it’s more important to consider the types of carbs you eat. To best support your weight loss efforts, choose whole, unprocessed complex carbs instead of those that are refined. This means swapping white bread and white rice for their whole, unprocessed counterparts such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, couscous, and sweet potatoes. These fibre and nutrient-rich carbs are more satiating and will help you feel full for longer.

Portion Sizes Matter. If you want to enjoy carbs, make them as a side dish rather the main focus on your plate. Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter of the plate with a source of lean protein, and the other quarter with whole grains or a starchy vegetable.

Add Protein. Want to enjoy some pizza or pasta but worried about the carbs? Adding protein to a starchy meal can reduce its Glycemic Index (GI), a measure of how fast your blood sugar levels rise in response to eating a certain food. The lower the GI score, the better it is from a weight loss perspective. Protein will also help slow digestion so that you feel full for longer. Try whole grain pizza or pasta topped with sliced chicken breast or grilled shrimp.

Eat It, Don’t Drink It. All fruits and vegetables contain some carbs. But juicing them removes the fibre, which is not only satiating, but also prevents a spike in blood sugar after consumption. For this reason, it’s best to consume fruits and vegetables in their whole form rather than drinking them as juice when you are trying to lose weight.