Expert Q&A

Carbs: Are they fattening?

With all the low carb diets out there, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m on the right diet. Should I switch to low carb foods? Are carbohydrates fattening?

-Cindy from California

Any food you eat that has calories will contribute to weight gain if you eat more of it than your body burns. Your body burns a certain amount of calories per day. The amount you burn depends on your genetics, physical stature, and activity level.

Let's say that to maintain your weight you need 1800 calories per day. You eat 3 mid-sized meals per day and couple small snacks. At the end of the day, when you’re eating dinner, you fulfill your 1800 calorie needs. But then you decide to have a second helping of food and another dinner roll. Now you’ve exceeded your calorie needs for the day. Any additional calories will be stored as fat—regardless of whether the food contains carbohydrates, fat, or protein. Why? Your body simply does not have any use for it. In short, no single nutrient is responsible for weight gain. Carbs are no more fattening than anything else.

If you are trying to slim down or prevent weight gain, don’t avoid carbohydrates. The key is to avoid overeating. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates combined with regular physical activity is the best approach to losing weight.

Erica Lesperance, RD, LD
Contributing Expert

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