Often there is a perception that carbohydrates are the enemy, it is thought that they can make you fat or prevent weight loss. Typically when people go on diets the first macronutrient to get cut is the carbohydrate. This can lead to unsustainable weight loss and yo-yo dieting. The reason why people lose so much weight when they limit carbohydrates is because for every molecule of carbohydrate there are three molecules of water, so typically you are losing water weight. New studies show that carbohydrates can be beneficial for weight loss. One study placed participants on a high carbohydrate whole-foods plant based diet (Wright, Wilson, Smith, Duncan and McHugh 2017). It was found that those who went on the high carbohydrate diet lost more weight than the group who did not. The benefits are thought to be due to the consumption of whole sources of carbohydrates (e.g. brown rice, potatoes, oats, legumes, beans); these foods are capable of balancing blood sugar levels and promoting feeling of fullness. Whole plant foods are lower in energy density but larger in volume; this means you can eat more food for fewer calories, leading to greater feeling of fullness. Typically vegetarian or vegan diets tend to be lower in calories than non-vegetarian diets (Thedford, K, & Raj, S 2011). As a result vegetarian and vegan individuals have a lower BMI than those who follow a standard Western diet (Farmer et al 2011). Funnily enough majority of their diet comes from carbohydrates, in the form of vegetables and fruits!
Carbohydrates are so necessary for life and energy. They are what fuel our energy pathways and brain function. Instead of focusing on restricting foods, aim to focus on a nutrient-dense approach to weight management. Basing your diet on whole-foods such as fruits, vegetables, starches (brown rice, potatoes, beans, legumes), nuts and seeds provides the right nutrients for your body. While you may not lose weight rapidly, weight loss may be more gradual and sustainable and is better maintained over time, not to mention your food will be more enjoyable (Berkow, Barnard, Eckart & Katcher 2010).
By Stacey Grist AKA the Plant Nutritionist
Berkow, SE, Barnard, N, Eckart, J, & Katcher, H 2010, ‘Four therapeutic diets: adherence and acceptability’, Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice & Research, vol. 71, no. 4, pp. 199-204. Available from: 10.3148/71.4.2010.199. [25 May 2017].
Farmer, B, Larson, BT, Fulgoni, VL, Rainville, AJ, & Liepa, GU 2011, ‘A Vegetarian Dietary Pattern as a Nutrient-Dense Approach to Weight Management: An Analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004’, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, no. 6, p. 819.
Thedford, K, & Raj, S 2011, ‘Research: A Vegetarian Diet for Weight Management’, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 111, pp. 816-818. Available from: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.04.014. [25 May 2017].
Wright, N, Wilson, L, Smith, M, Duncan, B, & McHugh, P 2017, ‘The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes’, Nutrition & Diabetes, vol. 7, no. 3, p. e256. Available from: 10.1038/nutd.2017.3. [14 April 2017].