Although many of us are trying to steer clear of carbs, do we really know what our motive is behind this? Will removing carbs from our diet even help us lose weight? And what exactly is this nutrient in the first place? Without knowing the reasoning behind why so many of us are advised to cut back on carbs (or even which carbs we should be cutting back on), it's all too easy for us to fall back into our health-harming, fast-food habits. ("Habit" might even be putting it lightly; according to some studies, it's really an "addiction.")
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: not all carbs are created equal—and that's especially the case when it comes to rapid weight loss. While some carbs are likely to get in the way of your mission to look and feel your best, others can help whittle your middle. And since carbs are so pervasive—and so hard to resist—we wanted to get to the root of this issue. Find out everything you need to know about this hot topic so you can start making smart choices about your diet and get well on your way to reaching your body goals. Still have more questions? Check out these 50 Weight Loss Questions Answered in 5 Words Or Less!
Q: What are carbs?
A: Varying arrangements of sugar molecules
Q: What digestible forms do carbs come in?
A: Starches, soluble fibers, and sugars
Q: Digestible forms? Does that mean some forms aren't digestible?
A: Cellulose is insoluble plant fiber.
Q: If we can't digest it, should we still be eating it?
A: Yes—it maintains digestive health.
Q: Which foods contain carbs?
A: Fruits, grains, vegetables, legumes, sweeteners
Q: That sounds like basically everything… what doesn't have carbs?
A: Meats, eggs, seafood, oils, seasonings
Q: So you're saying bread isn't the only carb?
Q: Is butter a carb?
A: Not unless you're Regina George.
Q: Ok, so a lot of foods have carbs, which means they have sugar…Why?
A: Sugar's our primary energy source.
Q: If our bodies need sugar, why does everyone say it's so bad?
A: Anything in excess is harmful.
Q: If sugar is our main energy source, then all carbs should be good for us, right?
A: No, some are unhealthy.
Q: Which carbs are considered to be unhealthy or "bad?"
A: Simple carbs are considered "bad."
Q: What are simple carbs?
A: One or two sugar molecules
Q: What are some sources of simple carbs?
A: Soda, fruit, sugar, white breads
Q: How does your body use simple carbs?
A: Super fast digestion, then energy
Q: Why is rapid digestion from simple carbs considered unhealthy?
A: Simple carbs spike blood sugar.
Q: I keep hearing about "spiking blood sugar." Why is that so bad?
A: Hunger pangs come more quickly.
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Q: Being hungry is one thing, but can spiked blood sugar cause medical problems?
A: Repetitive spikes causes insulin resistance.
Q: Insulin resistance (from all those simple carbs) sounds science-y and scary. Is it?
A: Over time, it causes diabetes.
Q: Is there ever a good time to eat simple carbs?
A: Yes, when desperate for energy.
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Q: So, if simple carbs are "bad," what are "good" carbs?
A: Complex carbs, aka "dietary starch"
Q: What are complex carbs?
A: Long, complex sugar molecule chains
Q: What benefits come from their complexity?
A: Digested slowly, steadily release energy
Q: Are there any other nutrients that complex carbs provide?
A: Essential vitamins, minerals, and fibers
Q: What types of food have complex carbs?
A: Pulses, whole grains, vegetables, breads
Q: You said earlier that white bread was a simple carb. How can bread also be listed as a complex carb?
A: White bread (bad) is refined.
Q: How does refining turn a complex carb into a simple carb?
A: Refining removes slow-digesting fiber
Q: Can you lose weight eating carbs?
A: Yes! Especially with resistant starches.
Q: What is the low-carb theory?
A: Bodies burning fat before carbs
Q: How low-carb do you have to go to reap these fat-burning properties by reaching ketosis?
A: Ketosis begins under 50 grams.
Q: Wow, 50 grams doesn't sound like a lot. How many grams of carbs do typical low-carb diets allow?
A: Usually between 100-150 grams
Q: So it sounds like many low-carb diets won't really reap the fat-burning benefits. How do they still help you lose weight?
A: You cut out "bad" carbs.
Q: Is a low-carb diet better than a low-fat diet?
A: Studies say yes.
Don't cut the fat! See how healthy fats can make you skinny with these 20 Healthy Fats That Make You Thin!
Q: Can you lose weight on a low-carb diet?
A: Yes, but mostly short-term
Q: I've lost weight on a low-carb diet, but I'm getting sick of it. How can I keep the pounds off without eating low-carb?
A: Nix junk, eat whole foods.
Q: I'm on a low-carb diet and I'm not losing weight. Why?
A: Not enough fiber or fats
Q: What happens to your body if you don't eat enough carbs?
A: Mental/physical fatigue, mineral deficiencies…
RELATED: Signs You Should Be Eating More Carbs.
Q: What does "Total Carbohydrates" mean on the nutrition label?
A: It includes carbs, fiber, sugar.
Q: What are "Net Carbs?"
A: Total carbs minus fiber
Q: Why do people on low-carb diets calculate net carbs?
A: Fiber doesn't spike blood sugar.
Q: So, for a 2,000 calorie diet, how many carbs should we be getting a day?
A: FDA recommends 300 grams total.
Q: How much fiber should we be getting a day?
A: 25 carb grams from fiber
Q: And how much added sugar should we be consuming a day?
A: No more than 50 grams!
Q: What would be better for me to focus on: cutting carbs or cutting sugar?
A: Cut the harmful, added sugar.
Q: I heard that the average man eats about 296 grams of carbs a day and the average woman eats 224. How is it that this is less than the daily recommended intake, but the average American is overweight?
A: Mostly sugar, too little fiber!
Q: What is the lowest-carb fruit?
A: Avocado! Yes, it's a fruit.
Q: Which carbs should I steer clear of, low-carb diet or not?
A: Refined (cereals, breads, pastas, pizza)
Q: Artificial sweeteners are low-carb. Can I replace an artificially-sweetened diet soda for a snack to stay low-carb?
A: Don't. You'll overeat to compensate.
Q: If I'm looking for a low-carb snack, what should I reach for?
A: Nuts, cheese, yogurt, jerky, olives
Q: What's the easiest way to cut out "bad" carbs?
A: Get creative! Example: cauliflower pizza!