Table of contents:

Carbs Are Not Enemies: 8 Things Carbohydrates Do For You
Carbs Are Not Enemies: 8 Things Carbohydrates Do For You

Why we should not demonize carbohydrates under any circumstances and why low carb diets actually do not help at all.

Carbs Are Not Enemies: 8 Things Carbohydrates Do For You
Carbs Are Not Enemies: 8 Things Carbohydrates Do For You

Following the anti-fat trend from the 80s, carbohydrates became the new victim of bullying in the media landscape. Many jumped on the low carb and keto train and hoped that it would finally bring them to the fountain of youth. This article is a nutritional odé of all that carbohydrates do for you.

1. Happiness hormone metabolism

It is no coincidence that when we are sad or depressed, we turn to foods that contain both protein and carbohydrate: for example ice cream, chocolate, etc. The production of serotonin is dependent on both. Protein provides the amino acid tryptophan, which is the building material for the happiness hormone. But it can only get into the brain if there is the transporter insulin, which is produced by the pancreas when we eat carbohydrates. No carbohydrates = no tryptophan transporter = disturbed happiness hormone metabolism.

2. Energy supplier

Your brain can only get energy from carbohydrates. It is often emphasized here that carbohydrates are not "essential" - this is a term from nutritional science that describes whether the body depends on an external supply or can produce the substance itself. It is true that the body can produce carbohydrates on its own. "Not essential" is not a synonym for optimal. The conversion usually takes place at the expense of muscle mass (even with sufficient protein intake and exercise). The body does not do this out of ideality, but because the brain would otherwise die. It is the very last resort that saves from death and not something one should strive for.

3. Digestion

Here's a summary of why fiber is good for us:

  • Prolonged chewing activity = slower eating
  • Faster feeling of fullness through swelling in the stomach
  • Longer lasting feeling of satiety due to increased digestive needs in the stomach
  • Faster transit time through the intestines due to increased volume = more regular digestion and prevention of constipation
  • Bile acid binding
  • Natural cholesterol lowering agent

A diet that is low in carbohydrates is usually also low in fiber.

4. Microbiome and gut health

The microbiome and gut health are two topics that are currently enjoying great public and scientific interest. For example, a healthy microbiome serves as part of the immune system - it forms a barrier in the large intestine and prevents pathogens from being absorbed by the body. What makes a microbiome healthy is on the one hand a high quantity and on the other hand a high diversity of healthy intestinal bacteria. This small, protective intestinal colony can only feed on different sources of fiber. A diet that consists primarily of protein and fat impoverishes the microbiome.

5. Physiological cravings

Many followers of fasting and the low-carb / keto diet think that their cravings for carbohydrates is due to sugar addiction or weak willpower. As previously described, there are cells in our body that depend on carbohydrates. For this reason we have hormones that are supposed to ensure regular intake: for example the neuropeptide Y (NPY). If we fast longer or if we do without carbohydrates, the NPY rises sharply. It creates great cravings for carbohydrates and triggers loss of control in order to secure the supply of the cells. If you eat enough carbohydrates regularly, the NPY-related cravings will be avoided.

6. The forbidden becomes interesting

Every rule subconsciously undermines one's own autonomy. This is easy to observe in children: what is forbidden suddenly becomes particularly interesting. But adults are also affected by this phenomenon. Psychological cravings arise when your inner, rebellious teen makes her comeback. This comeback sees itself as a food orgy, to demonstrate your autonomy, in which you eat everything you have forbidden. When you are comfortably full you cannot stop eating, because your subconscious knows full well that this is a rare opportunity. If you allow yourself everything at any time, you will very soon see that the Habit Effect takes away the allure and magic of all forbidden foods. This is the only way to ensure that chocolate has the same emotional value as broccoli.

7. Protection against weight cycling

Most of the time, we have no problem losing weight quickly. Many people find it difficult to maintain their weight. If you avoid foods that actually make you happy or that your body needs to survive, it can never be sustainable. Weight cycling is the technical term for constant weight loss and gain through weight management attempts. It includes the body weight-independent risk factor for cardiovascular events, inflammation, high blood pressure and insulin resistance *. Eating carbohydrates will protect you from low-carb / keto weight cycling.

8. Environment, climate and animal protection

Have you ever thought about how agriculture would have to change if everyone was on a low-carb or ketogenic diet? We would need more acreage to feed the animals and water would be wasted. The demand for food of animal origin already largely no longer allows for a dignified attitude.

Ketogenic, vegan diet would be such an additional restriction that definitely represents a disordered eating behavior and thus a great risk to your mental and physical health.

Followers of the low carb or keto diet would probably argue that there are very low-carbohydrate sources of fiber: avocado, pecans, almonds, coconut. As you can see, these recommendations are very questionable in relation to our climate. Eating carbohydrates is always an active contribution to environmental, climate and animal protection.

For more nutritional information, you can follow the ernaehrungs.revolution account on Instagram!

Isabel Bersenkowitsch is an anti-diet dieter from Pasching (Upper Austria) and lives in Vienna. She studied dietology at the FH Campus Wien, then worked in a rehabilitation center and is currently setting up a multi-professional food freedom group coaching program. The dietologist has set herself the goal of leading people back to a more intuitive diet. She writes weekly guest comments for WOMAN on eating disorders, diet trends and the relationship between psyche and diet.

* (Bacon & Aphramor, 2011)

Popular by topic