In an attempt to get rid of extra pounds, many people plump for ditching carbohydrates. It is widely believed that by banishing them from your diet you can lose weight naturally. Not only is this assumption counter-productive (in most cases, it hinders your weight loss endeavor!), but it may also lead to health problems. Here are the symptoms that can develop if your intake of carbs is insufficient.
Image Credit: shutterstock.com / I-ing
No two carbs are alike
First, let us make it clear: the message here is not to make you eat any carbohydrate-rich foods to prevent the symptoms discussed below. Carbohydrates differ, and some of them really can contribute to your weight gain.
The carbs found in sweets, refined grains, pastries, and the like should be avoided, as they do not benefit your health. All they do is take their share of your recommended calorie allowance, making your body accumulate extra fat. (They provide quite a lot of energy from excessive amounts of easily-released sugars, which is stored in the body, thus making you a proud owner of impressive fat deposits.)
As to healthy carbs, these are found in abundance in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in fiber, which plays an important role in many processes carried out in the body. The amount of fiber a person needs daily is 35 g for men, and 30 g for women. The nutrients that are also found in abundance in such foods are another reason to consume them. The Mediterranean diet, which is hailed as one of the healthiest diets, is based on consumption of veggies, fruits and whole grains, and the presence of the right type of carbs is one of the reasons for its superiority.
Can’t the body simply switch to breaking down fats?
The body prefers carbohydrates as its primary source of energy, and forcing it to break down fats or proteins instead is unlikely to bring you significant benefits. Carbs, fats and proteins provide different amounts of energy; some of them are easier for the body to process, others take more time to be broken down.
According to the NHS Eatwell Guide, around one third of your daily food intake should be whole grains or other starchy foods, such as potatoes (the latter should be consumed in moderation, because it is quite easy to put on weight by eating a lot of potatoes!), and another third should be fruit and vegetables. It means that a healthy diet implies consumption of sufficient amounts of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates supply you with energy, and the fibers found in carb-rich foods aid digestion. When carbohydrates are processed, insulin helps the resulting glucose get into cells. If there is too much glucose, the unused supplies are turned into glycogen, which can be found in the liver (these energy vaults are also kept in muscles). It is then converted to fat to ensure the energy is not lost and can be used later should such a need arise. The reason why healthy carbs are, well, healthy is that the glucose from them gets into the bloodstream more slowly, compared to the carbohydrates from sweets and refined grains. It means that the body will have more time to use it instead of accumulating fat.
What are the symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency?
Now that we have looked at why our body needs carbohydrates, it will be easier to understand why symptoms associated with carbohydrate deficiency develop.
- One of the key symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency is tiredness. Low energy and fatigue haunting you may be the result of insufficient amounts of carbs in your diet: as it is the primary source of energy, when it is lacked, you start feeling foggy and tired. This feeling persists, but when the body turns to fat to get the energy it needs, you may start feeling better.
- If you do not consume enough foods rich in carbohydrates, hypoglycemia can strike in response to your avoidance of starchy food. Low blood glucose levels cause confusion, tiredness, and light-headedness. You may also feel hungrier than usually, so cutting on carbs is not the best way to lose weight.
- If you fail to eat 130 g of carbs a day, ketosis may follow. The term denotes having too many ketones, or fats that are broken down only partially, in the blood. Since there are not enough carbohydrates, the body resorts to processing fats, which results in large numbers of ketones. While such a diet may be beneficial for those suffering from epilepsy, ketosis also causes nausea, bad breath, headaches, and fatigue. If ketosis is severe, it can lead to even more serious complications, such as kidney problems and joint swelling.
- Not having enough fibers in your diet can lead to GI problems, including constipation.
Carbohydrate deficiency can result in diseases which affect glycoprotein processing or biosynthesis, so if you have any of the symptoms listed above or suspect that they are caused by the lack of carbs, reevaluate your eating patterns and stick to a healthier diet.
Eating vegetables, fruit, and whole grains is part of virtually any healthy diet. If you want to ditch carbs, eliminate soda, pastries, refined grains, and sweets from your menu: this approach is beneficial for both the body and the soul, as indulging in sweet yet unhealthy foods with quick-to-release-sugar carbohydrates does not do any good.