What you need to know about low-carb diets
Trendy low-carb diets that call for people to give up pasta and baguettes have spiked in popularity in the last several years.
While committing to analyze and improve your food choices is always positive, low-carb diets have serious downsides, can prove unsustainable, may lead to long-term weight re-gain and, at the end of the day, don't work for long periods of time.
The energy and nutritional benefits that many types of complex and non-processed carbohydrates possess give everyone a serious reason to avoid ditching the multigrain bread and carb-rich fruit and vegetables.
Here are some of the risks and negative consequences associated with low-carbohydrate diets and the top reasons protein intake shouldn't define your diet.
You cannot meet your body's nutritional needs without carbs
Carbs are an important energy source for the brain, and many carb sources contain vital nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. However, not all carbs are equal.
It's true that people looking to lose weight and get healthier will benefit from cutting simple carbs found in cookies, candy and processed white bread. This is because all of these are dense in calories and spike-blood sugar, leading to cravings.
Still, complex carbohydrates, like those found in fruits and vegetables, contain fiber. Fiber balances and controls blood-sugar spikes, and it also contains many nutrients important for a healthy body.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs should make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily caloric intake.
In fact, "An extreme reduction in carbohydrates is very difficult to maintain long-term and makes it impossible to meet the recommended amount of fruit, vegetable and whole-grain servings recommended for a healthy diet," according to EatingWell.
Protein-centric diets might promote unhealthy choices
Many diets that call for followers to cut carbohydrates say that hungry dieters can replace them with protein and fat-rich foods instead.
Even though these diets advocate for eating mostly leafy greens, it's often easier to reach for beef jerky or some slices of cheese instead of making a salad - especially when you're feeling fatigued. When it comes down to it, any diet filled with processed, fat-laden or sugary foods puts you at a health risk.
Recent studies estimate that diets filled with highly processed foods like chicken nuggets and beef jerky, both of which are popular snacks for people on Atkins' or the ketogenic diet, increase general cancer risk 11 percent and breast cancer risk by 12 percent, according to Medscape.
Ketosis is hard to keep up
When it comes to losing weight, reducing simple carbohydrates is a key ingredient.
However, eliminating carbohydrates and maintaining the "streak" of no carbs is nearly impossible - not to mention harmful - for many.
The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular low-carb regimens of the last few years, but few see long-term weight loss or health benefits.
The diet is named for the state that the liver goes into in the absence of available carbohydrates to process. In ketosis, body fat provides energy instead of the more easily available simple or complex carbs.
However, any simple or complex carbohydrate will be hungrily devoured by the body, which will swing the body out of ketosis and could trigger powerful cravings for carbs, which can make it easy to binge on unhealthy sugars.
Digesting protein is hard on bones and the kidneys
Even in scenarios where lean protein substitutes for carbs, protein digestion can prove hard on the body and might lead to problems down the road.
"Digesting protein releases acids into the bloodstream. The body neutralizes these acids with calcium - which can be pulled from bone if necessary," according to an article from Harvard Health Publishing.
For this reason, people who eat protein often for long stretches of their lives can potentially develop osteoporosis.
"Eating too much protein also makes the kidneys work harder," the Harvard Health article continues.
Making healthy, balanced diet choices
No person looking at a giant plate of green salad, quinoa and beets or whole-grain pasta with zucchini sauce should think they have to turn these dishes down because they contain too many carbs.
Complex carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, contain nutrients that are important for your body.
Eliminating processed foods and simple carbohydrates can help you lose weight and get rid of cravings, but getting rid of good foods because they have carbohydrates can do more harm than good.
Take a look at the rest of the Sinclair Cares series for more ideas about how to get and stay healthy. Be sure to consult with your physician before you begin any new diet or nutrition regimen.