Popular low-carb diets such as: atkins, ketogenic, and paleo all work towards reducing carbohydrate intake to reach a desired, lower weight. These diets mold a mindset that is anti-carbohydrates despite them being essential to the human body. It can be difficult to distinguish what methods are safe and healthy especially when mainstream celebrities tend to promote low-carb diets. Before pursuing a low-carb diet, it is important to learn about the types of carbohydrates, how they are used, and the body’s backup plan. The first question you may have is — what are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates provide your body with energy. While thinking of carbohydrates, typically white pasta and bread come to mind. These are examples of processed grains which differ tremendously from types of carbohydrates found in whole grain bread and brown rice. The difference between the two is that whole grain products use the entire grain while processed grains do not. While cutting out carbohydrates; specifically the ones that come from whole grains, fruits, legumes, and nuts — you also deprive your body of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals included.
In the eyes of low-carb diets, carbohydrates have a bad reputation, but in reality carbohydrates give the body’s main source of energy in the form of glucose. If carbohydrates fuel your body, what happens when you cut out carbohydrates? The human body will quickly realize the lack of carbohydrates coming in, leading it to enact Plan B. The first backup plan breaks up proteins in muscles to create glucose, this results in loss of muscle mass which is a very common sign of a low-carb diet. If the human body continues to be deprived of carbohydrates it will turn to Plan C, which leads to the breakdown of fat to create glucose. The breakdown results in ketone accumulation leading to dehydration and loss of body mass.
The results of Plan B and Plan C are often used as motivation to begin low-carb diets however it is important to realize that low-carb diets do not equate to a healthy body. While I am not a nutritionist, it is clear that carbohydrates supply us with the necessary energy needed to thrive and keep our bodies healthy along with nutrients depending on your carbohydrate source.
Resource: WardLaws Perspective in Nutrition 11th edition