Yes, You Can Still Eat Carbs and Lose Weight (There's Just 1 Catch)

POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts
POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts

There's a common misconception that you have to eliminate carbohydrates to lose weight — that gets a resounding "not true" from registered dietitian and MPH Lisa Eberly. In fact, she told us that you can eat carbs and lose weight — just make sure they're the right kind of carbs.

So what are the best kinds of carbohydrates for weight loss? Whole grains. All of 'em. "It's not about which grains to go for; it's much more about how you go for them," said Eberly. "Eating whole grains rather than refined grains — no matter the type — is going to be beneficial for weight loss."

She also said to make sure to avoid the common mistake people often make: "thinking that 'multigrain' means whole grain — they are two different things!" So ensure that you're opting for real and true whole grains.

Real quick — whole grains are considered whole when all three parts are intact: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Essentially, the outer layer/skin, the meaty part, and the "seed" inside. Some examples of whole grains are quinoa, farro, oats, brown rice, wild rice (red or black), amaranth, and barley (to name a few!).

Here's the catch: you can eat whole grains daily, but you need to ensure moderation. "It is important to note that whole grains can only help you lose weight if you eat them in the right way: slowly and in moderation." Don't swap all your veggies and proteins for carbs! "Eating too many whole grains too frequently will lead to weight gain from excess calories."

"Additionally, eating whole grains too quickly leads to overeating them. Having only 1/2 cup of whole grains, or even less, can lead to increased fullness after a meal, so having more than that is unnecessary. Being mindful while eating and practicing putting your fork down in between bites, taking at least 20 minutes to finish a meal, and portioning correctly can take you far."

Now that we know the "catch," let's find out how whole grains can actually help you lose pounds. We had Eberly break it down: "Whole grains have the potential to aid in weight loss for a few different reasons — one, they can aid in fullness; two, they keep things 'moving'; three, they are associated with less processing and artificial ingredients."

Feeling full

"Whole grains haven't been refined, thus, your body works to break them down. This process takes a bit of time, so whole grains move through your digestive tract at a slower pace than refined white grains. This keeps you fuller longer."

She also noted the added benefit of fiber and that the nutritious fiber in whole grains is lost in processing and refining when brown rice becomes white rice or brown bread becomes white bread. "This fiber takes up space in the digestive tract, keeping your mind off what you're going to eat next."

Digestion aid

The aforementioned fiber from a whole grain is "mostly insoluble fiber," she said. "Insoluble fiber can help keep your digestion in check, moving things along at a good pace."

"When digestion slows from not getting enough water or soluble fiber, food sits around in your intestines, slowing metabolism and leading to weight gain or an inability to lose weight," said Eberly. "Insoluble fiber from whole grains helps to keep everything sticky [enough] to slide through you faster."

Unprocessed, real, natural food

When grains are refined and turned into things like white rice, white bread, and white flour, Eberly mentioned that "oftentimes they either have artificial ingredients and sugar added to them, or they are often accompanied by other foods with artificial ingredients added."

This is bad news because, as she said, "this leads to an association of sugar and artificial ingredients, combined with high calories, from these refined grains. If something is whole grain, it is less likely to be combined with these ingredients."

"It's not often we see 'whole-grain Twinkies' or 'whole-grain doughnuts,'" she said. "Eating whole grains keeps you closer to the source of the grain and further from the artificial refining and processing."

Why is this so important for weight loss? "Avoiding processed foods is essential to weight loss because your liver can only do one thing at a time; your liver is smart and productive, so it has a strict to-do list with three items."

  1. Eliminate chemicals and artificial ingredients from the body
  2. Eliminate alcohol from the body
  3. Burn fat

"Your liver will not burn fat if it hasn't completed steps one and two. Clear up your liver's schedule and it will have the time to burn off your fat." Less effort for the liver and more fat burned sounds like a win-win to us.