The Truth about Carbs and Weight LossBy Elisa - Jenny Craig Science-Backed
Recently, carbs got a much-needed break when it comes to being correlated with weight gain. Pasta can actually help contribute to weight loss, if eaten in moderation.1 We sat down with our Registered Dietitian, Janet Nash, to talk about how carbs can be part of a healthy diet and may even help you lose weight.
Sometimes, you just need to twirl your fork in a bowl of spaghetti with meatballs and enjoy. And that is perfectly O.K. While many weight loss trends suggest that you need to cut out this food group entirely, carbs, in moderation, can actually help some people lose weight. Here are five truths you need to know about carbs and weight loss:
Eat within reason
Let’s not get carried away–eating heaping bowls of spaghetti every night isn’t going to help you achieve your weight loss goals. But if you stick to a serving size no bigger than your fist and watch what you put on top, pasta may aid in weight loss. In a recent study2, participants ate a little over three half-cup servings of noodles each week, and researchers found that pasta did not contribute to weight gain. Instead, participants saw the number on the scale slightly decrease, likely due to pasta’s low glycemic index (GI).
Nash explains, “Glycemic Index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they cause blood sugar levels to rise. Foods with a lower glycemic index (55 or less) that take longer to digest and absorb, lead to a slower rise and contribute to lower levels of blood sugar compared to foods with a higher glycemic index (70 or above).” She continues, “Generally, pasta has a glycemic index of around 44, with whole wheat versions being even lower, so it falls within the “low” category. Because balancing your blood sugar levels is imperative for weight management, eating foods with a lower GI can help prevent weight gain.”
What gives pasta a low glycemic index? The presence of “resistant starch.” So, what exactly is resistant starch?
“Resistant starch has a structure that is “resistant” to your digestive enzymes and does not break down for absorption,” says Nash. “It passes from your small intestine right into the large intestine where your gut bacteria will ferment it. This process provides many health benefits including weight control.”
Other foods containing resistant starches include barely ripe bananas, brown rice, potatoes and legumes.
Nash also points out, “If you cook these types of foods and then let them cool down, it may actually increase their resistant starch content. So, if you’re debating reheating your leftover pasta–go right ahead– it won’t reduce the amount of resistance starch it contains.”
Satiate your appetite
If you find yourself hungry throughout the day, you may want to incorporate more healthy carbs into your routine. Nutrient-rich carbs containing resistant starch, act a lot like fiber, they keep you feeling full and satisfied after eating, so you’re less likely to munch on unhealthy snacks in between meals.
Naturally Burns Fat
“It’s a common misconception that carbs are solely at fault for weight gain,” says Nash.
“Because resistant starches are fermented by the gut bacteria in the large intestine, beneficial fatty acids are produced which help nourish good bacteria and supports a healthy immune system. One particular fatty acid that is produced by this process, butyrate, encourages your body to burn fat over carbohydrates,” continues Nash.
So healthy carbohydrates may be aiding your weight loss efforts, not hindering them.
Good news: according to research2, people who consumed the most nutrient-rich carbs from “whole” sources like vegetables and whole grains, and fish were found to be slimmer than those who restricted the food group. It’s no coincidence that the US Dietary Guidelines for carbohydrates is 45-65 percent of your total daily calories.3-4
Feel good about your food
Perhaps the best reason for incorporating healthy carbs into your diet is the feel-good factor.
“If you don’t have to cut out your favorite foods while following a weight loss program, you’ll be more likely to stick to your goals,” says Nash.
By incorporating nutrient-rich carbs in moderate amounts, you won’t feel like you’re missing out or being deprived.
If you’re ready to start a weight loss program that doesn’t cut out any food groups and incorporates healthier versions of your favorites, make your free appointment with Jenny Craig today.
 Chiavaroli, Laura, et al. “Effect of Pasta in the Context of Low-Glycaemic Index Dietary Patterns on Body Weight and Markers of Adiposity: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials in Adults.” BMJ Open, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1 Mar. 2018, bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/3/e019438.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig