Dear reader, as we prepare to chat about carbohydrates and weight loss, you may wanna know what “complex carbs” are: 

Complex carbs are usually polysaccharides: long chains of sugar molecules. These take longer to digest and therefore have a more gradual effect on the increase in blood sugar. Meaning, they have low glycemic index (GI)

We also have “simple carbs” (I can already hear your sphincter getting tighter because you have read so much about the “evil” simple carbs): 

A simple carb has only one type of sugar. These easily are utilized for energy, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion. Meaning, they have high glycemic index (GI)

When your carbophobic friend Jessica uses the word “complex” in front of “carbs” she implies that they are superior to simple carbs. And that they lead to greater weight loss.

And even though your pretty little head is not ready for this I’ll still say it—it’s a prime-cut A-grade bullshit. A recent paper… 

...Investigated whether or not “complex/slow” carbs lead to greater weight loss compared to “simple/fast” carbs. Here’s what they did: 30 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials comparing low-glycemic index and high-glycemic index diets for weight loss.

Researchers concluded with something that carbophobic Jessica failed to share with us because she was too busy villainizing carbs after reading that subimbecilic “good calories, bad calories” book: 

Results of 30 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials from 8 publications demonstrated that low-glycemic index diets were generally no better than high-glycemic index diets for reducing body weight or body fat.

So Jessica’s fear of eating carbs and increasing insulin levels, and then inhibiting fat loss is nothing but fear. Fear out of misinformation and pseudoscience.

You can eat simple/high GI carbs. You can enjoy ice cream, white bread, cereals guilt-free, etc. And still lose weight.

It’s because weight loss comes down to energy balance rather than the amount or type of carbs you eat: 

Energy balance

Now, before you conclude that I’m straight-out fuckin’ nuts telling you to eat nothing but bread and pancakes please understand that I’m not.

Different foods can have different amounts of macro and micronutrients, fiber, caloric density, and therefore, can be more conducive to weight loss and health: 

Apricot vs dried apricot

What I’m trying to say is that labeling carbs as “complex/slow/low GI” and “simple/fast/high GI” is mostly useless.

You see, glycemic index (GI) is affected by various factors:

1) Cooking/processing reduces/increases GI—brown rice range from 48 to 87 and 66 GI values, white rice ranging from 17 to 94 depending on cooking/processing method; 2) Interindividual variability—glycemic response to white bread varied by >5-fold in one cohort study of nearly 800 adults; 3) Glycemic responses are highly heterogeneous—there’s GI variation due to age, genetics, physical activity, insulin sensitivity, and BMI.

Because of that, the whole carb labeling thing is pretty much useless.

Now, I’m not sure if you have noticed it but I’m always trying to improve society and, therefore, I have a solution. Instead of choosing foods based on glycemic index, choose foods, not just carbs, based on how processed they are: 

ultra-processed foods vs whole foods

Do that most of the time—80-90% of your food choices should come from minimally processed whole foods—and you will reduce caloric intake because whole foods tend to contain fewer calories and control hunger/satiety better: 

oats vs granola, meat vs sausage, orange vs orange juice

In Hall et al. study, subjects were assigned to either ultra-processed or unprocessed diet for 2 weeks. They were instructed to eat as much or as little as desired.

Believe it or not (haha), subjects ate on average 508 calories per day more during the hyper-yummy ultra-processed junk food diet

Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake

It doesn’t take a team of professional researchers to realize that ultra-processed diet caused a few extra sets of fat-filled love handles aka weight gain while unprocessed diet—weight loss: 

Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake

I know that some of my ideas may not be perfect but they are always worth considering. And eating more of these: 

whole foods

…And less of these: 

ultra-processed foods

…Is much better than avoiding perfectly fine and nutritious foods such as watermelon (70-80 GI) or potatoes (80-90 GI) only because Jessica said “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EATING? HEY, YOU, LOOK AT ME! WHAT THE F-U-C-K ARE YOU EATING? EVER HEARD ABOUT INSULIN?”

So, unless you have a medical reason to avoid simple carbs, eat them in moderation (which can be hard at first, I know). They are not going to hinder weight loss.

As Alan Aragon, a nutrition researcher, once wrote: 

There’s no good reason to put any food on an “avoid” list, even classic junk food and desserts. Why give any food all that power and taboo mystique? Eat it when you want to, but moderate the amount consumed. Stay physically active. Stay vigilant about the latest diet rules, even if they come from highly decorated academicians. Focus on personal dietary optimization.

So, er, yeah, watermelon is awesome. And if anyone tells you not to eat it because of its high glycemic index, smile at him like a mongoloid and dig into the goddamn watermelon.

(Make sure to let juice slide down your chin and onto your clothes. That will teach him.)

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Originally published by me on Medium on October 25, 2021

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