Healthy Digestion/Can You Eat More Carbs Without Getting Fat? Science Says “YES!”

Can You Eat More Carbs Without Getting Fat? Science Says “YES!”

Jacob Ellison ● 18/01/2022 ● 10 min read


Carbs are taking a beating these days.

Whether it's from the latest diet craze or your health guru, the message is always the same: "Carbs make you fat."  

That's why most of us are scared of eating nutrient-dense foods for fear of their carbohydrate content. 

However, skipping carbs altogether may deprive you of an essential macronutrient your body needs to function well.

"Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs and is a good source of many vitamins and minerals," says Donna Logan, RD, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. 

Additionally, carbs provide many benefits you may not get from other nutrients, such as:

  • Being a vital source of energy for critical organs like the heart, brain, and kidney
  • Protecting against disease and obesity
  • Promoting healthy weight
  • Improving your mood via an amino acid called L-tryptophan
  • Fueling your physical activities
  • Boosting your memory and concentration

As you can see, it's in your best interest to consume healthy carbs as often as possible. 

Of course, it's hard to convince yourself otherwise without addressing the main reason why most people believe that carbs make them fat or sick. 

So let's take care of that issue first. 

The Fat-Carb Connection: True Or False? 

Your body breaks down carbs into simple sugars called 'glucose.’ 

Once your body detects the presence of glucose, it commands the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. 

The primary purpose of insulin is to open the receptors on cells so that glucose can enter and turn into fuel. 

Insulin does this to all cells in your body, mainly to the brain and muscle cells.  

So how about the extra glucose that you don't need at the moment?

Where do they go, then? 

Does your body eliminate them afterward?   

Part of insulin's job is to command the extra glucose to enter your muscle and liver cells as glycogen. 

The problem, though, is that your muscle and liver cells have limited space for glycogen. 

Don't worry, though, because your body has a backup plan.

Enter your fat cells.

Insulin tells the extra glucose to enter the fat cells, transform into triglycerides, and turn into stored fat. 

You'd think that by reducing your carb intake, you're diminishing the role of insulin in transporting glucose into cells and turning them into stored fat. 

And the less you involve carbs into your diet, the lower your insulin levels are, and your fat cells don’t get fatter. 

Unfortunately, recent scientific studies say otherwise. 

For example, a four-week study involving 16 overweight or obese men showed that switching to a low-carb diet didn't cause a significant improvement in weight loss. 

Here's how the study went. 

For four consecutive weeks, the participants followed the standard American diet, which is 50% Carbohydrates, 15% Protein, and 35% Fat. 

The menu is packed with refined carbs such as lemonade, pretzel sticks, and granola bars. 

After four weeks, the participants switched to a low-carb diet of 5% Carbohydrates, 15% Protein, and 80% Fat.

They followed this diet for another four weeks. 

The participants also rode an exercise bike for 30 minutes every day. 

Here are the results after two months: 

  • The participants lost 1.1 lbs. or 0.5 kg. of body fat on average in the first four weeks.
  • Switching to a low-carb diet for the remaining four weeks led to a dip in insulin levels by almost 50%. But the participants only lose 1.1 lbs. or 0.5 kg. of body fat.

The study also revealed that while the low-carb diet increased the participants' ability to burn more calories in the first few days, their metabolic rate rapidly decreased as the study progressed. 

At the end of the study, this initial metabolic advantage of the low-carb diet had disappeared entirely.

Eat More Carbs. Live Until 90? 

Of course, a controlled study done in a laboratory is one thing, but how about real life? 

Have you ever heard of the “Blue Zones”?  

These are regions around the world where the inhabitants are famous for having long lives. 

What’s surprising is that while folks in the Blue Zone do watch their diet like a hawk, they’re not afraid of expressing their love for carbs! 

For example, Okinawans have the largest concentration of centenarians despite eating loads of carbs their whole lives.

The centenarians of Okinawa eat rice every day - both the brown and white varieties. 

They also eat sweet potatoes, root crops, whole grains, and legumes every chance they get. 

And yet, despite their high-carb diet, Okinawans have one of the lowest incidences of obesity in the world.  

The Greek island of Icaria is home to people who live well into their 90s despite a diet consisting of bread, potatoes, and legumes. 

The people of Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica love black beans, bananas, squash, yams, and corn tortillas. 

Nicoyans love their carbs so much that they often pair black beans with white rice! 

Back home, folks at Loma Linda, California, are known to outlive their Northern American counterparts by up to 11 years and tend to weigh about 20 pounds less! 

Their diet consists of carb-rich sources, including legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. 

Of course, the climate, level of physical activity, and overall quality of life contribute to their longevity.

But we can’t deny that people living in Blue Zones continue to thrive despite their love for carbohydrates.

Fall In Love With Carbs Without Falling Short Of Your Weight Goals 

Based on what we’ve learned so far, carbs alone don’t contribute to weight gain. 

In fact, with a few sets of strategies, you can use carbs to trim more pounds off your waistline!

So here are a few strategies you can do to enjoy freshly baked bread while keeping your weight down.

Mix Carbs With Protein

A slice of toast is fulfilling on its own. 

But topping your morning toast with avocado and egg is much better. 

Why is this so?

The human body digests carbs faster than protein. 

So by mixing your carbs with protein, you’re slowing down your digestion, and you end up feeling full for hours.

In effect, you can control your cravings and appetite while keeping your metabolism running all the time.   

Here are some of the healthiest Carb + Protein combinations you can try:

  • Apple Slices + Peanut Butter
  • Oatmeal + Peanut Butter
  • Brown Rice + Black Beans
  • Whole-Grain Pasta + Tofu
  • Whole-Grain Bread + Eggs
  • Stir-Fried Vegetables + Fish 
  • Fresh Fruit + Greek Yogurt 
  • Potato + Steak 

Cut Down On Bad Carbs 

You’ve probably heard of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ cholesterol.

You can divide carbs into ‘Good’ and ‘Bad,’ too.

Good Carbs help you lose weight, keep your digestive system running like a well-oiled machine, and provide you with energy. 

Bad Carbs do the opposite. 

How can you tell the difference between Good Carbs and Bad Carbs?

Well, Bad Carbs are highly-refined food items that are usually fluffier and smoother in texture. 

They sometimes contain artificial sweeteners such as fructose, sucrose, or dextrose.  

They can spike your insulin and could inflame your digestive system.

Bad Carbs come in different shapes and forms, including:

  • White Bread
  • Pastries
  • Biscuits
  • Candies
  • Refined white rice and pasta
  • Sodas
  • Chips or crisps
  • Sweetened fruit juices
  • Energy drinks

On the other hand, Good Carbs are minimally processed food items containing longer molecules of sugars that take the body longer to digest, making you feel fuller throughout the day. 

Plus, they are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.  

The best sources of Good Carbs include:

  • Whole Grains
  • Beans 
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Root crops such as beets, carrots, and radishes
  • Tuber crops such as potatoes, yam, and cassava

Now, just because Bad Carbs make you fat, that doesn’t mean you have to forget about them altogether. 

The key here is to reduce the serving of Bad Carbs in your meals. 

So if you fill 30% of your plate with white pasta, make sure that the remaining 70% contains leafy greens, lean protein, and beans.   

Eat Your Carbs. Don’t Drink Them. 

With how things are working these days, it’s easier to grab a can of soda than head to the pantry for a glass of water. 

However, alcoholic or sugary drinks not only damage your teeth but could also spike your insulin levels which may affect your cravings and appetite. 

For instance, a study followed 2,300 young girls for a decade. 

The study revealed that girls who drank soda the most tended to be heavier than those who consumed the least. 

So if you want to put your love affair with carb beverages to rest, here are some tips you can start right now:

  • Are you bored with plain water? Try some fruit or herb-infused waters.
  • Reach out for some sparkling water -- it comes in fruit-infused and unflavored versions.
  • Make your iced tea from real tea leaves.
  • Keep a water bottle around.
  • Immediately follow alcoholic drinks with water.
  • Go back to black coffee with little to no sugar or creamer at all.

Load Up On Carbs Rich In Resistant Starch

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to consume resistant starch regularly. 

But what is resistant starch? 

This type of starch resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in your colon for friendly gut bacteria to feed on.

And because good bacteria love resistant starch so much, they will continue to multiply and stay healthy  -- thereby providing a positive, weight-loss effect including:

  • Boosting metabolism
  • Increasing fat burning and appetite regulation
  • Promoting regular bowel movement
  • Boosting cellular energy

The good news is that resistant starch is abundant in nature. 

Some carb sources rich in resistant starch include green bananas, green plantains, white beans, lentils, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and cooked and cooled rice. 

You can add resistant starch in many ways:

  1. Cook rice, beans, potatoes, and whole-grain pasta in advance, then cool them in the refrigerator overnight. This process will help develop the resistant starch. Simply reheat the carbs before serving.
  2. Instead of cooked oats, try the uncooked one soaked in yogurt or non-dairy milk. Refrigerate the mixture overnight and serve it at breakfast topped with fruits. Oats soaked overnight have more resistant starch than cooked oatmeal. 
  3. Blend green bananas or plantains into smoothies.
  4. Add lentils to soups or salads.
  5. Add green banana flour or raw potato starch to desserts and smoothies. 

Maintain A Calorie Deficit 

Breaking News: It’s not the carbs that make you fat. It’s the calories. 

As long as you’re calorie deficient, losing weight will be much easier, even if you’re a fan of carbs. 

You have three options to create a deficit of calories:

Option 1 - Eat fewer calories than you burn. 

Option 2 - Burn more calories by moving more than you consume through exercise.

Option 3 - A combination of eating fewer calories plus exercising more to burn extra calories.

So which one is better?

It depends on your age, types of daily activity, and health condition. 

But if you’re a healthy individual, we recommend Option 3 for many reasons:

First, you don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite pasta dish for fear of overshooting your daily calorie limit. 

In other words, you don’t have to make radical changes to your diet or workout plan. 

Second, it allows you to stay physically active without spending hours in the gym or on exercise equipment. 

Third, it allows your body to absorb more macronutrients for faster fat loss while preserving muscle mass. By doing so, you can achieve a healthy, fit physique. 

Here’s an excellent example of consuming large amounts of carbs while losing weight.

It’s a story about Colin O’Brady, who recently became the first person to cross Antarctica alone, without the aid of kites or resupplies. 

According to the story, he ate about 100kg of food in 54 days during his trek -- 45% came from carbs which is equivalent to a kilo a day! 

By the time he finished the trek, O’Brady had lost about 20 pounds!

Colin’s story is an extraordinary example of being calorie deficient.

It may not work for everyone. 

But as you have just discovered, as long as you’re physically active and eating within your calorie limit, you can keep enjoying your carbs for as long as you like.  

Of course, you have to consider your fat and protein intake to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and not losing muscle mass in the process.    


The low-carb diet is taking the world by storm by promising a quick and easy way to lose weight. 

But as you’ve just discovered, limiting your carb intake isn’t a sure-fire way to trim the fat off your waistline. 

You have to be strategic about it by following a few simple health habits we listed here.    


Eating More Carbs Without Inflating Your Gut

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