What are carbohydrates?
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, like sugar and honey, may give you an energy jolt because they metabolize quickly, but soon will send you dashing to the vending machine for more fuel. Complex carbohydrates (legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables) take longer to break down, providing lasting energy. They also add a dose of fiber, which absorbs water on its way through the digestive tract, making you feel fuller. Plus, it takes longer to chew most fibrous foods, slowing down the process of eating and giving your brain a chance to recognize the signs of satiety.
Carbs + Whole-Grains = Weight Loss
Good news: You can enjoy carbs and lose weight! Some carbohydrates may actually help protect against obesity. These protective carbs are found in whole-grain baked goods, pastas, cereals and rice. But the key words here are whole grain.
A Harvard study that followed 74,000 female nurses for 12 years found that women who ate the most whole grains weighed less than those who ate the least. And a Louisiana State University study of 149 women found that low fiber intake was linked to higher body fat.
How do whole grains work their magic? It's simple: Whole grains are much higher in fiber than their highly processed counterparts, and fiber is the secret weapon in the weight-loss war. For example, a 1/2-cup serving of brown rice has nearly 2 grams of fiber, while the same serving of white rice barely contains any.
Simply trade three or more of your U.S. Department of Agriculture-recommended six daily servings of grains for whole grains. It's easy to do when you include whole grains at every meal. For example, have a packet of instant oatmeal for breakfast (1 grain serving), a sliced turkey on whole-wheat bread sandwich for lunch (2 grain servings), two rye crisp breads with lowfat cheese as a snack (1 grain serving) and 1 cup of whole-wheat spaghetti for dinner (2 grain servings).
Do Low Carb Diets Require an Increase in Vitamin-Intake?
Low-carb diets restrict or eliminate many nutritious foods. As a result, you lose out on B vitamins and magnesium (from grains), calcium and vitamin D (from milk products), potassium (from potatoes and bananas) and beta carotene and vitamin C (from veggies). No pill can replace the thousands of health-enhancing phytochemicals found in intensely colored veggies and fruits.
You may want to supplement with a moderate-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. One study found that even menus designed by dietitians using the USDA's Dietary Guidelines came up short when calories dropped below 2,200 a day.