A repeated theme that I see daily is a fear of carbs. Clients are shocked when I suggest including brown rice, whole grain pasta, or (gasp) potatoes with their meals. Surely this will cause weight gain, right? Think again. Believe it or not, research shows that you can eat carbs, be healthy and still lose weight.
A recently published, year long randomized control trial backs up the idea that carbs aren’t the enemy when it comes to weight loss. In this trial, over 600 participants were randomly assigned to a low-fat diet (high in carbs) or low-carb diet (high in fat) for a year. Both groups were given dietary counseling and closely monitored during the time period. The results- both groups lost weight but there was not a significant difference between the two groups in terms of the amount of weight loss. That’s right, those who ate carbs still lost weight. Both groups also improved various health indicators like blood pressure, fasting insulin, and glucose levels.
What can we learn from this study? Either a low carb diet or a low fat diet can work for weight loss. What matters is the overall calorie deficit. This study also shows the importance of receiving dietary counseling. Both groups received dietary counseling that emphasized high quality diets by focusing on more whole foods, especially vegetables and less sugar and refined grains. The dietary counseling also addressed the importance of relationship to foods for weight loss by discussing things like mindful eating
The take home message from this trial is that rather than getting caught up in counting your macros, or totally eliminating carbohydrates, focus on eating less processed foods. This approach is also a whole lot easier. Take a look at what you are eating. How close is it to its natural form? How extensively has it been processed? For instance, think of the processing an apple and nuts have undergone versus a granola bar.
Either a low carb or low fat diet can work for weight loss. Do what’s best for you based on your own health goals and personal preferences. Even more importantly, chose a healthy eating plan that is sustainable. If you can’t make the change forever, then it probably isn’t worth making.