• Brian Dooreck, MD

Carbs. The Good. The Bad. The Truth.

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Carbs are not all bad

Let's get right to it. Carbs (or starches) are not bad. They are not the "enemy" nor should be avoided in a balanced and healthy diet. Federal Dietary Guidelines recommend 45% to 65% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. The questions are from what source are you getting your carbs and what choices are you making in your overall diet?

Federal Dietary guidelines recommend 45% to 65% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates.

News and Diets

Low-carb diets have been shown to help people keep weight off and even lose weight. Thus the confusion about whether carbs are good or bad for you. Diets like the Atkins and ketogenic diets are low-carb based diets.

Carbohydrates and Sugar

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (blood sugar). Glucose triggers insulin and this potentially can increase one's risk for diabetes (Type 2 or Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), not to mention obesity, which is an epidemic in our society. Thus, the concept of limiting carbs as a means of maintaining a lower weight has been suggested.

Contrary to popular belief, fat itself, may help regulate the blood sugar (glucose), and thus the insulin, and even keep you feeling "fuller" throughout the day. In the end, your weight is better maintained closer to your goals.

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Low Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

Low-carb diets lead to water weight loss. I'll explain it.

With a reduced carbohydrate intake, your body goes to its carbohydrates reserves, which are stored with water. The problem is that the weight comes right back on, although maybe slowly, once you start eating carbohydrates again.

The real goal is the long-term sustainability of weight loss. The above mentioned, "extreme" low-carb diets are not likely maintainable for the long-term. Yes, you may lose weight initially, but you will likely put it back on again in time.

The Overall Diet

If you eliminate carbs from your diet or fat for that matter, the question is what are you replacing those calories (energy needed by the body) with? The quality of your overall diet is the most important factor for maintaining a sustainable goal weight.

Ideally replace the reduced carbs, or fat, with increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins. Avoid processed and snack foods.

Carbs and Health Benefits

Carbohydrates are energy. They provide the body with a source of energy. Think of marathon runners having a carb-load spaghetti dinner the night before the race.

If you completely eliminate carbs, then your body will look for energy for other sources—like fat. Fat when broken down for energy (or fuel), produces ketones. Thus the ketogenic diet name. The long term sustainability of this diet is unlikely for most, and the long-term benefits, or negative effects on health, are not yet known.

A 2018 peer-reviewed study published in the medical journal The Lancet Public Health demonstrated that "cutting carbohydrates might also cut lifespan by up to four years."

Carb-rich foods have the health benefits of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even protein or healthy fats.

Carb-rich foods have the health benefits of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and even protein or healthy fats.

Source of Carbs

Focus on eating fiber-rich sources of carbs such as:

  • Whole grains

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

Try to avoid refined and processed carbs like

  • White bread

  • White flour-based foods

  • Crackers

Bottom Line

Carbs are not bad. It is usually the choices we make in terms of what carbs we consume; how much we eat; when we eat them; and our overall diet.


I eat a high fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.

"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

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Connect with Dr. Dooreck on LinkedIn where he focuses his sharing on Health, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Balance.

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