Can you survive without carbs?

A man in kitchen
Happy Senior Caucasian man in pajamas preparing breakfast at home, on the Brač island in Croatia, Mediterranean, Europe. He is cutting bread on the kitchen counter. Copy space. Nikon D800, full frame, XXXL.

There’s always a lot of hype around carbs, which can make it a bit confusing when you’re trying to eat healthily. We’re told that some carbs are good while others are bad, that you should avoid them to lose weight and many other things. But can we actually do without carbs?

Carbohydrates are a good source of glucose, which helps to fuel us and give us energy. This is why cutting down on carbs can leave you feeling a bit lethargic, as your body will only be able to get fuel from fat, with protein being used for rebuilding tissue throughout your body.

This is actually a problem as every cell in your body can burn the glucose you get from carbohydrates, but only certain cells can burn fat, so going carb free won’t leave you feeling too great.

Then there’s the fact that your body actually requires glucose to continue functioning correctly. Not getting enough glucose can mean that certain tissues and organs can’t work as they should, including your brain.

While some organs can learn to live without carbohydrates, others can’t. This means that it is a good idea to include carbohydrates in your diet as they are the easiest way to provide glucose to your body.

That being said, you can cut down on or cut out carbs if you are getting enough calories every day. Your body can get glucose from protein – your body can reform amino acids in order to do so if it must as well as a small amount from fat. While it can take some time to balance your glucose levels based on these things alone, it can be done.

This means that if you are getting enough calories from these components, you should be able to go without carbs and still fuel your body.

Carbohydrates also aren’t classed as an essential nutrient, this is because your body can get glucose from other nutrients if it needs to. This means you could cut down without experiencing illness.

However, low carb diets aren’t very sustainable and you may experience tiredness, mood swings and other things that can affect your happiness and wellbeing if you remain on one for too long.

Rather than cutting out carbs, it is a good idea to swap simple ones – such as white pasta and bread – for complex carbohydrates instead. Things like whole grains take longer for your body to break down, keep you feeling fuller for longer and are essentially less processed than simple carbs.

It is important that you listen to your body when cutting down on carbs as everyone will respond differently. This means your diet should be flexible enough to meet your daily needs and to stop you binging on unhealthy foods and the wrong types of carbs, which can drastically affect your diet and weight.

Be sensible with your diet and speak to a professional if you’re unsure whether a low carb option is the best fit for you.

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