Which is Better?
I hate to say it, but we’ve gotten to a point in society where the focus of eating is no longer on feeling our hunger and fullness. Instead, we fixate on a specific nutrient and hope by increasing or decreasing it in our diets it will dramatically result in obtaining the beach bod we’ve always wanted, right?
Well, don’t fret! I’m here today to dispel the myths around the carbohydrate craze and give you the facts. First, let’s start with high-carbohydrate diets. High-carbohydrate diets prove to be beneficial for those who engage in high-endurance physical activity and require the extra energy to assist with performance. Often times this is referred to as “carbohydrate loading” and is monitored by a coach and the team nutritionist. In some rare cases, high-carbohydrate diets are also recommended to assist with ensuring patients receive adequate energy intakes when they must avoid high-fat and protein meals.
On the other hand, a low-carbohydrate diet is often prescribed (sometimes with misguided intentions) to those who are diabetic or require a jump start in their weight loss. By decreasing the amount of carbohydrates in one’s diet, the individual will typically see immediate weight loss. This weight loss could be the result of multiple factors, including the prime point that a person’s intake of carbs most likely exceeded recommended amount before the diet. Plus, focusing on eliminating carbohydrates often goes hand-in-hand with decreasing one’s processed food consumption while increasing fresh produce, which naturally results in weight loss.
The issue arises when someone takes a low carbohydrate to such an extreme that their body begins to enter a permanent state of ketosis, which means it is relying on fat as its fuel source. Though this may seem perfect in theory, over time remaining in a ketogenic state puts serious strain on one’s kidneys, which can lead to health problems down the line. Furthermore, when you eliminate an entire food group from your diet you are bound to compensate in another area. Often times a low carbohydrate diet is compensated with a high-protein, high-fat diet. A seemingly healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit is then replaced by eggs and bacon, increasing one’s risk of developing high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
So, what’s a person to do when bombarded by a new study that contradicts the study that was posted the week before? Low Carb? High Carb? My advice as a Registered Dietitian is to use the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) set forth by the Institute of Medicine, which states adult diets should have 45-65% of their diet should come from carbohydrates, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from dietary fat. If you focus on the right type of carbs and practice balance and moderation in your eating patterns, you won’t have to worry about low- or high-carb dieting. Instead, you can focus on more important things in life!