May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Dear Jenn,

I’m trying to lose weight. Many diet programs encourage eating mostly proteins and avoiding carbohydrates at all costs. My online research seems to say that carbohydrates are the villains in weight-loss efforts. I read that carbohydrates prevent weight loss and even encourage weight gain. What is your take on the carbohydrate subject matter?

Carbohydrate Fear Factor


Dear Carbohydrate Fear Factor,

Thank you for writing your question. I appreciate it and am happy to give you my take on the subject matter. Nutrition is a “soft science.” There are many opinions that suggest what one should eat, not eat, how much to eat of different foods, etc. That’s the nature of the subject matter, and can lead to confusion. Yet there is much research going on regarding food and nutrition, which is exciting. What’s important for the layman is to search for facts, and not opinions. Look for the American Dietetic Association, American Medical and Dental Association for information on health and diet.

So, you ask about carbs: Good? Bad? Fattening? Eat them? Avoid? Let’s explore the facts.

What Is a Carbohydrate?

  1. Any large group of organic compounds that include sugars, starch and cellulose. These compounds contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and are used as structural materials and for energy storage within living tissues.
  2. Food consisting of or containing a lot of sugars, starch, cellulose or similar substances that can be broken down to release energy in the human body. These make up one of the main nutritional food groups.
  3. Mid-19th century: Carbo + hydrate. Meaning carbon and hydrogen.

Points of Information

  1. Cellulose is the main chemical that forms the structure of plants. It is the most abundant macromolecule (large molecule) and the most common organic compound on earth. A complex carbohydrate consisting of 3,000 or more glucose units, cellulose was discovered by Anselme Payen in 1838. He isolated it from plant matter and determined its chemical formula.
  2. Humans cannot digest cellulose. It is a non-digestible carbohydrate for us. Cellulose has a structural bond that cannot be broken down by human enzymes. However, there are some animals—for example, cows, goats, sheep, horses, rabbits and termites—that have a symbiotic bacterium in their abdomen that can digest cellulose. Therefore, these animals can receive nourishment from cellulose.
  3. Cellulose is an “insoluble fiber” and does not dissolve in water. When consumed by humans, it helps push food through the digestive system and support regular bowel movements. In addition, dietary fiber may promote health in other ways, too.
  4. “Dietary fiber” refers to a group of substances in plants that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. Included are waxes, lignin, and polysaccharides such as cellulose and pectin.
  5. Food manufacturing companies use cellulose as additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, coatings, gums, thickening structures, and anti-clumping agents in both human and veterinary products.
  6. Some non-food cellulose products are cotton, linen, yarn, paper, rayon, casing, cellophane, sponges and bio plastics.
  7. Pharmaceutical companies may use cellulose in medication products and cosmetics.

We need “dietary fiber” in our diet for good health, and therefore we need to consume this type of carbohydrate. Sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole wheat products, brown rice, popcorn, nuts, bran, skins of potatoes, lentils, peas and beans. Therefore, I say, eat these carbs!

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45%-65% of our total dietary calories. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, 900-1,300 calories should be made up of carbohydrates.

“Digestible carbohydrates” provide the body with glucose, which is converted into energy used to support body function and physical activity. Therefore, removing a major nutrient from the diet is not a good idea. Many people are not aware of the facts. Sources of healthy digestible carbohydrates to include in the diet are breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, kasha and quinoa. See where I’m heading, Carbohydrate Fear Factor.

See below the 2023 Food Guide Pyramid for what to include in your diet.

‘Ketogenic Diet Regimen’; Carbohydrate Fear Factor

A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates (sugars) causes the body to break down fat into molecules called “ketones.” Ketones circulate in the blood and become the main source of energy for cells in the body.

The ketogenic diet typically reduces carbohydrates intake to less than 50 grams per day (200 calories). This is less than the amount found in a medium-sized bagel. Some regimens go as low as 20 grams per day (80 calories).

Popular ketogenic diets tend to divide nutrient intake like this: 70-80 % fat, 5-10% carbohydrates and 10-20% protein.

Foods to include are: avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds, butter and creams, berries, watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupe, star fruit.

Foods to avoid are: grains, starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits, sweetened yogurts, juices, honey, syrups, chips, crackers and baked goods, including gluten-free items.

Ideally this regimen cuts out starchy vegetables, fruits and grains from the diet and encourages the intake of high-quality proteins like fish, poultry and lean meats, and hydrating well with simple beverages.

Point of Information

Cloud bread (or oopsie bread) is a very popular bread for low-carb keto dieters. Cloud bread is a protein-rich alternative to regular bread and makes an excellent sandwich or English muffin replacement.

Does a Ketogenic Diet Promote Weight Loss? Prevent Gain?

A ketogenic diet will help you burn fat and increase a feeling of fullness compared to other weight loss diets. However, weight can be gained on keto diets if one consumes more calories than one expends. Our bodies are designed to store excess calories and convert them into fat, meaning weight gain, for storage in case of a famine.

Keto Diet Side Effects

Ketogenic diet side effects include low blood sugar, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and increased risk of cardiac disease. Keto is not safe with anyone who has conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder. In addition, strict diets like keto could cause social isolation or disordered eating.

Therefore, my “take” is to avoid the keto diet for best health and weight management. My philosophy is to consume a healthy variety of foods, using the Food Guide Pyramid for healthy eating. The food guide encourages adequate nutrient intake in the amounts the body requires. No cutting out any essential food group! Cutting out any food group leads to nutrient deficiencies. Eating a variety of foods prevents diet boredom, freedom in the diet, and a healthy nutrient intake. However, I do encourage controlling portion sizes and caloric intake for weight management. Also, regular exercise helps to boost metabolism, burn fat, control weight and keeps the body fit and healthy.

Recommendation: Exercise. Summer is a wonderful time to get into the habit of exercising for best health benefits including longevity.


Diets that cut out food groups are considered fad diets including the Atkin Diet. Many people who followed this regimen were not necessarily in their healthy weight range and had abnormal lipid profiles. I noticed this when I worked for an organization called The Wellness Center. I reviewed lipid profiles.

Consuming a variety in the diet is the best way to avoid nutrient efficiencies and keep healthy. I encourage weight control, keeping track of portion sizes and calories and exercising on a regular basis.

If you wish to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle call Nutrition Transformations. We will help you. Weight-loss medication can be prescribed by our physician if recommended and needed.

Yours in good health,


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