Can Carbs Help You Lose Weight?

They've gotten a bad rap, but not all carbs are created equal. If you think that carbohydrates are a dieter's demise, it's time to retrain your brain.

Here, Sapna Lalla, MS, RD, CDN-a registered dietician and co-founder of New York City-based wellness boutique Poshan Complementary Nutrition-weighs in on how certain types of carbohydrates can actually help you shed extra pounds. 

The bad stigma surrounding carbohydrates is largely due to the fact that most dieters don't distinguish between the two types: simple and complex. "Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal; in fact, they behave quite differently in our bodies," says Lalla. "Good (or complex) carbs are foods that have a high nutritional value.  Along with lowering cholesterol, aiding the body in toxin removal, and being high in fiber, these foods are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and help give you more sustained energy and a sense of fullness."

So how can carbohydrates actually help you lose weight? The answer lies in the glycemic index, or GI, of these foods.

"The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels," Lalla says. "Choosing low GI carbs, [which are] foods that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels, reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss."

How do you know what's a low GI carb and what's a high GI carb? To choose low GI carbs, you don't need to count numbers or do any mental arithmetic to make sure you are eating a healthy diet. Keep the following points in mind:

  • Choose breakfast cereals based on oats, barley, and bran.
  • ·Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat.
  • Choose breads with whole grains, stone-ground flour, spelt, and sour dough.
  • Enjoy all other types of fruit and vegetables.
  • Use basmati or wild rice.
  • Enjoy whole grain pasta, noodles, and quinoa.
  • Eat plenty of salad vegetables.

Looking for more good-carb recommendations? Check out the following table:


Category Typical ChoiceLalla's Choice
Fruits Bananas Apples with the skin
Vegetables Romaine Lettuce Kale
Collard Greens
Beans Chickpeas Mung Beans
Nuts Cashews Almonds
Seeds Sunflower Seeds Quinoa
Breads White Bread Sprouted Bread
Pastas Semolina Pasta

Spelt Pasta