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Dr. PJ Prakash holds a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from the University of Rhode Island (U.S.A.) and a Post-Doctorate in Human Nutritional Biochemistry from the Tufts Medical School, Boston (U.S.A.). He previously worked as a nutrition scientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston where he published several research papers in prestigious nutrition journals. 
Currently, he is a nutrition consultant and personal weight loss coach ( and also a freelance writer in the field of human nutrition.

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Good Carbs, Bad Carbs & Weight Loss

Good carbs are generally low in sugar, fat and salt – the three main enemies of good health. Replacing the carbohydrate portion of your daily diet with good carbs would be a step towards better health…

The number of people with unwanted body weight has reached to an unprecedented rate among the western population, with about 65% people overweight and about 33% clinically obese. Extra body weight has been correlated with numerous nutritional disorders, such as, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart related problems. Studies indicate that reducing the body weight may help to lower the risk of these related health problems. 

In this era of high protein and/or low-carb foods, there seems to be a great deal of confusion among the consumers as to what would be the ideal diet for losing and maintaining weight. The consumers are often influenced by the food industry marketing campaigns branding their low-carb although processed foods. The popular diet plans in the market have also contributed confusion among the consumers when it comes to including carbohydrates in the diet. The consumers are often faced with a challenge in their selection of carbohydrate foods where they either don’t know what to consume and what to avoid or are perplexed with whether or not to consume carbohydrate foods at all. The lack of knowledge on the consumers’ side in terms of selection of healthy foods often leads their buying decisions to be influenced by these marketing nudges.

So can cutting down on carbohydrate intake help to lose weight? This is rather a controversial topic. This article sheds some light on this aspect and educates the readers on the selection of good carbohydrate foods and avoid bad carbohydrate foods.

Carbohydrates (carbs) have been providing energy to the human body since the beginning of the evolution. In other words, our human bodies have adapted to consume carbohydrate foods for thousands or more years. Therefore, avoiding carbohydrates from our diet would not be wise. However, precaution needs to be taken for the selection of good carbs over the bad carbs. 

The bad carbs are mainly derived from processed foods and sweet snacks and desserts, such as, candies, cookies, chips, doughnuts, brownies, danish, etc. Their sugar content is very high. Some of these foods may also be high in fat, salt and overall calories. These bad carb foods, in addition to being high in calories, are burned quickly by the body and make you hungry again. Unfortunately, the foods available in the western world are abundant in bad carbs. It has also to do somewhat with the western culture. For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners would not be complete without pies and cakes, the spirit of the month of Christmas is incomplete if homemade cookies are missing, and taking candies out of Halloween and Easter is like taking a fish out of water. So over the time, people in the western world have gotten accustomed to consuming foods high in bad carbs. A big part of this trend is contributed by the processed food industry, which is also transcending into other parts of the world. 

The sources of good carbs are whole grains like rice, wheat, oat, barley, whole grain cereals, whole grain breads, fruits, vegetables, etc. The good carb foods are generally low in sugar, fat and salt – the three main enemies of good health. Good carb foods like fruits contain a complex form of sugar that is not so readily absorbed in the human body and thereby keeps your blood sugar levels low. Good carb foods are also in general high in fiber that reduces the absorption of fat in the body. Therefore, replacing the carbohydrate portion of your daily diet with these good carbs would be a step towards better health. 

The main sources for calories for human body are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. In general, less than 30% of total calories consumed per day should be provided by fat, and proteins and carbohydrates may each contribute about 30-40% of your daily calorie intake. Since 1 gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories, it come out to be roughly 100-150 grams carbohydrates/day for most men and 75-125 grams carbohydrates/day for most women, on an average 1,500-2,000 calories/day diet. These carbohydrates should be good carbs as mentioned above. 

Now the question is how to avoid eating bad carbs? There is a very simple answer – DON’T BUY THEM. Read the list of bad carb foods listed above and then go through your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets and look for the matches. Un-list all these and other similar bad carb foods from your grocery-shopping list when you go to the supermarket next time. Also, add the good carb foods listed above and others similar in your grocery-shopping list. Develop a mindset of avoiding bad carb foods, and the foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. 

Below are the general guidelines for weight regulation and optimum health: 
1. Cut down on overall salt, sugar and fat intake.
2. Substitute the intake of bad carbs with good carbs; animal proteins with plant protein foods; saturated oils with vegetable oils.
3. Increase the intake of water and fiber.
4. Consume 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
4. 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, at least 3 times a week.
5. Consistency of all above. 

*Disclaimer: The contents are meant for informative, educational purposes only. Formal recommendations can only be made by physicians involved in your care. Please check with your physician before acting on any part of this article.


February 16th issue: Significance of Protein Intake in Weight Loss

January 16th issue: The Open Secret Of Weight Loss: Calories In – Calories Out


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