Most of us have heard the terms carbs, proteins and fats. And, you may even know that they are called macronutrients. Essentially, they are the three main categories of food. Foods can be a mix of carbs, proteins and fats. And, it is the ratio of carbs, fats and proteins that most diets manipulate to help achieve weight loss.
Believing that a high fat diet caused heart disease, cardiologists promoted a low-fat diet in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. A review of the science showed that the link to heart disease was never proven and that high-carb, low-fat diets can be bad for health. A recent book called BodyReboot describes the many health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet also called the ketogenic diet.
Here’s an interesting fact. Carbs, fats and proteins can each be either healthy or unhealthy depending upon their sources and the quantity consumed. However, only two of these groups are necessary for our survival. Can you guess which one we don’t need?
Check out these four surprising facts about carbohydrates:
1. How carbs are used in our bodies
Once the carbs you’ve eaten are digested and absorbed, glucose can be used as an energy source by all the cells in your body, including those in your muscles, heart, and brain.
Glucose that isn’t immediately needed by these cells can be stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen (long chains of glucose, similar to starch in food). However, there is a limit to the amount that can be stored. Once your glycogen storage sites are full, any additional glucose from the breakdown of excess carbohydrate will be converted to fat and stored in your body.
2. The benefits of restricting carbs
A low-carb diet provides several benefits, especially for people who want to get their blood sugar under control and/or lose weight:
- Lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Elimination of carb cravings.
- Powerful appetite control.
- Ability to go for many hours without eating due to feeling full and satisfied.
3. Minimum amount of carbs you need = ZERO
You technically do not need to eat any carbs at all. When carbs are restricted, your body switches to using fat and ketones rather than sugar as its main energy source. Aside from your red blood cells and a small portion of your brain and kidneys, which require glucose, your cells can use fatty acids or ketones as fuel.
Your body is actually capable of making glucose for any cells that need it, even if you don’t eat any carbs. This is because your liver can convert amino acids (found in protein) and glycerol (found in fatty acids) into glucose. This process is known as gluconeogenesis.
In fact, in their 2005 textbook “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids,” the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine states:
“The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.” 
Interestingly there are nine essential amino acids found in protein and two essential fatty acids, but there is no such thing as an “essential” carbohydrate.
4. Only “net carbs” matter
Net carbs are the amount of carbohydrates a food contains after subtracting the fiber.
Although it’s generally accepted that the fiber in whole foods isn’t digested and absorbed, not all experts on carb-restricted diets agree on this point. Additionally, in people with type 1 diabetes, fiber may distend the stomach and trigger the release of hormones that raise blood sugar. Therefore, you can either subtract the fiber carbs in whole food to get the ‘net carbs’ or count total carbs, depending on your personal preference and tolerance.
Here is an example of how to calculate net carbs: 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cauliflower contains 5 grams of total carbs, 2 of which come from fiber.
5 grams of total carbs minus 2 grams of fiber = 3 grams of net carbs.
At the time of writing this post, we are giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book to help people lose weight and get healthy! Just cover the small cost of shipping, and we’ll send a FREE copy to your door. Go over to this page to see if copies are still available!
- “The Big Fat Surprise By Nina Teicholz | Why Butter, Meat And Cheese Belong In A Healthy Diet”. 2018. Thebigfatsurprise.Com. Accessed September 18 2018. https://thebigfatsurprise.com/.
- Minehira, K, N Vega, H Vidal, K Acheson, and L Tappy. 2004. “Effect Of Carbohydrate Overfeeding On Whole Body Macronutrient Metabolism And Expression Of Lipogenic Enzymes In Adipose Tissue Of Lean And Overweight Humans”. International Journal Of Obesity 28 (10): 1291-1298. Springer Nature. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802760.
- Westman, Eric C, Richard D Feinman, John C Mavropoulos, Mary C Vernon, Jeff S Volek, James A Wortman, William S Yancy, and Stephen D Phinney. 2007. “Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition And Metabolism”. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 86 (2): 276-284. Oxford University Press (OUP). doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.2.276.
- “Dietary Reference Intakes For Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, And Amino Acids (Macronutrients)”. 2005. National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/10490.