Q: I’ve tried several ways to lose weight but nothing seems to work in the long term. Most recently, I embarked on a very low-carb diet after a friend said it did wonders for her. What is your advice? Do you think it will help me shed my excess fat?
A: So many of us cut down on carbs just to lose weight quickly. A very low-carb diet works like a shortcut to lose weight but it’s never sustainable.
A minimum of 20-25 per cent of your diet should come from good slow carbs. Here’s why good carbs are essential for us:
Carbs help your bowel movements: Fibre, which is not broken down or absorbed in the gut, helps with the bowel movements. It also binds the toxins like extra hormones, cholesterol, and other unwanted stuff in the gut. If you don’t consume enough foods that have a lot of fibre in them, your bowel movements will be affected. Result: toxins and waste material that ideally should be excreted gets reabsorbed into the system. This is one of the biggest reasons we have oestrogen dominance that could lead to various health issues.
Your hair health is affected: When you suddenly go on a low-carb diet that is low on calories as well, your body begins to spend less energy on your hair. Our body allocates energy based on a hierarchy of needs. Your hair health is the last place your body will spend energy on when you eat inadequately. At times, drastic weight loss is perceived as stress by your body resulting in alopecia or telogen effluvium, where 50 per cent of your hair can fall off in three months.
Low-carb diets cause dry eyes: The production of mucus by mucus membranes requires carbs. Mucus helps to lubricate the gut, nasal passages and keep your eyes hydrated. With long-term carb restriction (50 grams per day or less), some people have itchy, dry eyes indicating that the mucus membranes are not able to produce enough mucus. When you get on a keto or a very low carb diet, the body starts to break down and utilise glycogen (the stored form of carbs) and with this, it loses water from the body. Every gram of glycogen needs 3g of water, so when glycogen stores go down, fluid is lost too, this can result in slight dehydration causing dry eyes if fluids are not replenished. Similarly, insulin levels drop with the keto diet and this too leads to fluid loss.
Poor sleep: As the body shifts it’s metabolism from burning carbs for energy, to burning fat for energy on a very low carb diet, the quality of your sleep is hampered. The sudden drop in sugar and insulin levels too, contribute to disturbed sleep when on a keto or carb-restricted diet.
So before going on any diet please consult a physician or dietician who can suggest the right way to lose weight.
Rashi Chowdhary is a nutritionist, diabetes educator and creator of The Protein Bake Shop. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.