Do Carbs Make You Fat?
With the low-carb craze gaining nationwide popularity, many dieters think that low-carb diets such as keto are just fads. But after looking at the myriad of scientific studies have produced in-depth research that carbs do indeed make you fat, and today’s most productive diets have taken those facts to heart, especially keto (1).
The low-carb, high-fat keto diet has gained international acclaim as an effective solution for improving overall health and dropping pounds while enjoying filling, flavorful meals. Before you jump in, however, it’s best to find out the facts behind the legend. How do carbs make you fat, and how can you successfully reduce your intake without going hungry? Keep reading (2).
How Carbs Lead to Weight Gain
While many dieters think of carbs as simply bread and pasta, they come from a wide variety of sources. Many fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrate-rich, which means that over-consumption will result in weight gain much in the same as eating too much spaghetti (3).
Why do carbohydrates lead to weight gain? It’s all in the science (4). Whether you consume your carbs through sugar, pasta, or something else, these are all simple carbs that digest quickly, and take much longer to deliver the satiated feeling of being full and having eaten enough. After digestion, carbs are converted to blood glucose, so after you’ve consumed a carb-heavy meal your glucose levels will rise at an alarming rate, with the pancreas producing increased insulin in an attempt to wash it out of your body. During this process, insulin is converted into glycogen: a starch.
The more carbs you eat above what's needed for conversion into immediate energy, the more glycogen is stored within your muscles. Like anything else, the body has its limits, and storing an unlimited amount of glycogen simply isn’t possible. This leaves the insulin needed to park glycogen in the muscles for storage floating around in the blood causing problems. This excess of glucose and glycogen must be burned off before fat can be burned for energy. So continually feeding your system carbs for glucose means the fat you eat gets stored awaiting it's turn to burn. Keep in mind that since sugar and insulin levels are directly affected during this process, consuming a high-carb diet is especially dangerous to those with diabetes, and it raises risk of getting type 2 diabetes for those who don't yet have it.
Keto: The Fat-Friendly Solution
Unlike carbs, fat doesn’t raise levels of insulin in the blood. Insulin is the hormone in charge of fat storage (5). When this hormone is maintained (not constantly rising and falling as it does in a carb-heavy diet) you are less likely to put on weight, and a lot more likely to lose it! This means that you can consume your favorite fats in a healthy way—without piling on the pounds. Fats make an excellent solution for weight loss because they tend to be high in protein and are incredibly filling. Eating a well-balanced ketogenic diet filled with healthy fats will even out your weight and help you cut down the pounds.
When insulin levels remain steady, it’s easier for diabetics to stay healthy and for others to cut down their risk. The keto diet is incredibly popular among diabetics for this reason, although it offers benefits for everyone who partakes (6).
Interested in dropping some pounds? If you’ve been loading up on carbs, here’s a helpful list of high-carb foods you should avoid, and some healthy fats you should most definitely switch to. This keto-friendly list will help you let go of carbs, maintain a healthy level of ketosis, and drop the pounds. Keep an eye on the options. With so many healthy fats, you have an endless variety of meal options. Get creative, start cooking, and watch that weight fall off!
High-Carb Foods to Avoid:
Beer (There are low-carb beers available; however, it’s best to limit alcohol intake in general. Most are high in carbs, so seek out keto-friendly recipes.)
Bread (This includes wholegrain varieties)
Cakes & pastries
Large amounts of fruit (Small amounts of berries are okay)
Potatoes, Chips, Hash browns, & French fries
Healthy Fats to Chow Down On:
Dairy (Cheese, Milk, Yogurt)
Fish & Seafood (These are high in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids)
Organic Beef & Poultry
When putting meals together, remember that balance is key. Don’t focus your entire meal on fats alone, but load up on leafy vegetables, sample some dips, and mix these ingredients together to create savory, satisfying meals that are low-carb, filled with healthy fats, and straight up delicious. With so many high-protein, high-fat choices, a low-carb diet will leave you feeling fulfilled, full of flavor, and far from bored. Get ready to chow down the keto-friendly way (7).
(1) Gary Taubes. What Makes You Fat: Too Many Calories, or the Wrong Carbohydrates? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-makes-you-fat-too-many-calories-or-the-wrong-carbohydrates/. Published: Sep. 1st, 2013. Accessed Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(2) Alexandra M Johnstone Graham W Horgan Sandra D MurisonDavid M Bremner Gerald E Lobley. Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 44–55, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.1.44. Published: Jan. 1st, 2008.
(3) Harvard Medical School. Glycemic index for 60+ foodsMeasuring carbohydrate effects can help glucose management. health.harvard.edu. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods. Published: Feb, 2015. Updated: March 14th, 2018. Accessed: Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(4) Yunsheng Ma,Barbara Olendzki, David Chiriboga, et al. Association between Dietary Carbohydrates and Body Weight. Am J Epidemiol. 161(4): 359–367. Feb 15th, 2005.
(5) National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH study shows how insulin stimulates fat cells to take in glucose. www.nih.gov. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose. Published: Sep. 7th, 2010. Accessed: Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(6) William S Yancy, Jr, Marjorie Foy, Allison M Chalecki, et al. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005; 2: 34. Published Dec. 1st, 2005.
(7) Adam Tzur, Brandon Roberts Richard Nijholt. How the Ketogenic Diet Affects Hunger (Research Review). www.sci-fit.com https://sci-fit.net/ketogenic-diet-hunger-suppression/. Published: March 14th, 2018. Updated: March 20th, 2018. Accessed: Sep. 23rd, 2018.