Low Carb Diet? Do Carbs Make You Fat?


All carbohydrates are not equal, some do indeed make us fat but many don’t and are essential to a well balanced and healthy diet.

The major fuel source for your body is glucose. The body maintains a narrow blood glucose range. Too high is toxic to the body, too low and you can’t function

When carbohydrates are digested they are broken down and absorbed as glucose. This influx of glucose needs to be dealt with quickly, so the body doesn’t come to harm. In response to eating carbs you produce the hormone insulin.

Insulin reduces blood glucose in two ways. Firstly in converts it into something called glycogen and this is stored in your muscles and liver. There is only limited capacity here so when it’s full the second mechanism steps into play. The excess glucose which you haven’t burned off with activity gets turned into… FAT

What carbs DO make you fat?

Refined carbs = white flour and everything made out of it:

  • white bread,
  • white pasta
  • noodles
  • cakes and biscuits
  • pastry
  • crossiants

Refined carbs also = refined white sugar, white rice and lots of breakfast cereals, e.g. special k, rice crispies, cornflakes.

These things have had all the good stuff stripped away.

Refined carbs are absorbed into your body at lightening speed. There is no real substance to these foods so the glucose is released quickly. This has an abnormal effect on the body. To deal with this massive surge of glucose your body has to produce a massive amount of insulin.

3 things will happen to this glucose:

  • you burn some of it off with activity
  • some is sent to the muscles and liver to be stored as glycogen, for release later
  • the rest goes to your fat cells

High glucose levels are toxic and it is vital to get them down. The insulin response can be rather heavy handed, i.e. it is extremely effective at bringing the glucose level down, so much so that it tends to over shoot and within about 2 hours, or less, of eating refined carbs you can end up with low blood sugar – this triggers a big hunger and need for a ‘sugar fix’  – you are back where you started, craving the same kind of food.

Which carbs are good?

Natural food is different.  Fruit and vegetables, whole grains – whole grain rice, whole grain breads, lentils, beans. Real food. The exception here is potatoes, sorry I know they’re nice. Potatoes are converted to glucose by your body in super fast time so behave the same as refined carbs.

These foods, because they are whole, are absorbed slowly into your system. As a result the insulin response is slow and gentle. Because the glucose is released over a number of hours you actually burn a lot of it up and very little, if any, ends up as fat (providing you are not overeating).

The other positive is you feel satisfied for longer and when your hunger does reappear it is gentle.

If you have a breakfast of white toast or corn flakes, you’re going to feel hungry pretty quickly and have a craving for similar refined food. Chances are you will be eating again fairly soon, or struggling with the effects of low blood sugar. If you ate exactly the same amount of  calories but instead had whole grain porridge or rye toast your blood glucose will remain pretty stable, you will function better, it will take longer to get hungry.

If you are intending to lose some weight, eating more whole foods and less refined food will help.

Comments and questions welcomed

Uber Health to you, Dr Julie (any ads that appear are nothing to do with me, I am NOT endorsing)

PS   I am looking for a hand full of volunteers to who want to lose weight and would like my help over the course of a few months, starting June/July 2013. Please email me if you are interested  :)

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8 thoughts on “Low Carb Diet? Do Carbs Make You Fat?”

  1. Thanks Julie, I have read a lot about this before, but you have put it in a way that makes it so much easier to understand. I made the decision to only use whole wheat pasta, brown rice, wholemeal pitta breads and whole grain bread etc instead of the white stuff some time ago and have noticed that they also make me feel a lot less bloated.

    1. Hi Step
      You are making healthier choices definitely.
      Interesting that you say less bloated rather than not bloated. I don’t know whether it’s relevant to you but at some point I will do a post about bloating caused by wheat and gluten so watch out for it 🙂

  2. HI Julie. Very Interesting Post. I love quakers Porridge oaks 100%. I have been having Soya milk as well as they have half the sugar of normal milk and make the Porridge creamy as well. Thanks Pete

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