What are carbohydrates? Are all carbs the same? Why should we consider how many of them we eat?
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the term Banting suddenly took off. The reason? An obese English undertaker, William Banting, had hit upon something. He is known for being the first to popularise a weight loss diet based on limiting the intake of carbohydrates, especially those of a starchy or sugary nature. Perhaps both his suit size and profession gave him reason to reflect on his own mortality, whatever the motivation he decided to write a warning to the public. He wrote of the need to start following a diet that cut out bread, potato, beer, butter, milk and sugar – the staples of the day. He was advocating cutting out carbs.
Low carb diets, such as Atkins, help your body’s metabolism switch to burning fat for energy; instead of glycogen; from carbs. With a carb-high diet, which is typical of the UK modern diet, your body will just burn carbs as that’s what’s eaten in most meals and it’s a quick source of energy. So the body never really taps into fat stores. Worse still, because carbs are easily digested, they do little to quell pangs of hunger – shortly after a carb-rich meal hunger rears its head again. However, fats and protein take much longer to digest leading to far less snacking. In addition to this, reducing ‘bad’ carbs means that blood sugar levels stabilise. Without the constant spikes & dips in blood sugar, caused by eating carbs, less insulin is produced and hunger is a thing of the past.
Most low fat or calorie restricted diets give short term benefits but it’s hard to maintain weight loss as it’s hard to stick to a diet that leaves you feeling hungry. On Atkins, you reduce carbs initially yet still have a lot of complex carbs, from vegetables. Then, as you get closer to your goal weight, you start to add back ‘good’ carbs. Adding back carbs gradually provides reassurance that it’s the ideal balance to maintain a desired weight.
Reducing carbs is also proven to be beneficial for many medical conditions, including diabetes, PCOS and epilepsy. Of course, anyone with a serious medical condition should first consult a health expert before making any major changes to their diet.