Now that I’ve clarified the difference between refined carbohydrates versus whole grains, I want to go back to the discussion of a low-carb diet. Here, the “carbs” are typically used to refer to sugar and starch. While I’ve wrote about the recommended amount of carbs for your diet, I want to go into more details on the infamous low-carb diet and how to interpret the science behind it all .
All carbohydrates break down in your body to one molecule – glucose, which the cells use for fuel. Glucose is the main fuel source for your body, it is essential for the functioning of your organs and muscles. Therefore, your body will do anything to keep a steady level of glucose in your blood. If the blood glucose level drops too quickly for the body to compensate, the brain runs out of fuel and you pass out. If there is too much glucose in the blood, it causes a lot of damage to blood vessels leading to scarring.
Whenever the body senses influx of glucose, it secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps to transport that glucose into our cells. It also puts our body in “storage” and “build” mode. It tells our fat cells to take in fat, and it tells our liver to make fat and protein. Advocates of low-carb diets believe that we should keep our carbohydrate eating to a minimum so that we minimize the effects of insulin on the body. Additionally, when the body senses the glucose level getting low, it produces a hormone called glycogen, which is the antithesis of insulin. Glycogen stimulates the body to take glucose from the cells into the blood by first breaking down carbohydrate stores, then protein from muscle, and finally fat…but only as a last resort.
When your body breaksdown fat, it produces ketones, which are used by the body as a last resort for fuel. Too much ketones can throw off your body’s delicate pH balance causing serious, sometimes lifethreating problems. This process of ketosis, from fat breakdown, is the objective of most low-carb diets. This makes extreme low-carb diets potentially dangerous for your health. While the science does show the benefit of limiting carbs (specifically starch and refined carbohydrates), the focus should be on proper serving sizes and switching to whole grains.
-DS & NZ