Should you eliminate carbs from your diet?

    “How healthy is it to follow a low- or no-carbohydrate diet? What are the pros and cons?”

    — Anonymous

    With the recent Atkins craze and “low in carbs!” stickers that can be found on food labels everywhere, it is almost impossible not to consider cutting back on carbohydrates. It is very difficult to do it properly, however, since carbohydrates are in a lot of common foods.

    “I would not recommend a strict low- or no-carbohydrate diet,” said Heather McCracken, a nutritionist and health educator at Student Health Services. “People fail to realize that fruits and vegetables are mainly carbohydrates. You cannot eliminate fruits and vegetables without eliminating an abundance of nutrients that protect against cancer, hypertension and heart disease. I would not recommend cutting out fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains.”

    Although it’s easy to lose weight by cutting out carbohydrates from your diet, it is mostly water weight that you lose. Most of that weight will be regained once you get off the diet and resume eating carbohydrates.

    “For every gram of carbohydrate we store in our body, we store three grams of water,” McCracken said. “Initially when someone goes on a low-/no-carbohydrate diet, their body uses up the carbohydrate stores. When they use up those stores, the body releases water stored along with the carbohydrates, resulting in water loss. This weight loss is water, not fat.”

    If you want to lose weight, the most effective way is simply to count calories. Low carbohydrate foods do not translate into low calories.

    “Excess calories are fattening, not carbohydrates,” McCracken said. “If someone is eating more calories a day than they are expending, they will gain weight. It does not matter if these calories come from fat, protein or carbohydrates. If someone eats too many calories, the excess will be stored as fat.”

    In the end, McCracken emphasizes, a healthy diet is about balance. She encourages students to take advantage of the various free nutrition-related services — like nutrition counseling — offered through Student Health Services, located on Library Walk

    If you want to find out how to eat well and reach your weight goals, call (858) 534-8089 for an appointment. In addition, the free Weight Management Clinic is available for students. It is run by a dietitian, a psychologist and a physician. The clinic meets on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the second-floor conference room at SHS. Feel free to show up, since there is no appointment needed.

    To learn more about dieting and weight issues, attend McCracken’s lecture, “Exploring Weight Management,” on April 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the fourth-floor RIMAC conference room.

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