Low carb diets are popular. It is like everywhere you look you find a variation of these. The reason it is so popular is simple; it works. But what if you love your breads, pastas, and potatoes? Can you eat carbs and still lose fat? In this post we shall look at the benefits of natural carbs blockers and whether they can help you lose fat.
First, here’s a truth; carbohydrates (carbs for short) are not actually the problem when it comes to weight gain. In fact, we need this macronutrient along with the other two – protein and fats – for optimal health.Yet carbohydrates, along with fats, have been so demonized that some diets advocate virtually cutting them off.
While cutting down on some carbohydrate foods such as white bread, white rice and other refined grains and sugars is recommended, cutting carbs drastically may not be a good idea. The reason is that you need carbohydrates for energy.
Plus, whole grains provide fiber as well as some important micronutrients.
The Real Enemy In The Weight Loss War
While the term “carb control” appears to be more commonly used, we prefer the term “carb management”. This is not the same as carb cutting which, as mentioned, may not entirely be healthy. Carb management is about how your body manages (read utilizes) carbohydrates.
You see, the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into sugar, which enters your bloodstream. This causes the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin. This is the real enemy in your weight loss battles. Why?
Insulin prompts your body to absorb blood sugar for energy, or store it as glycogen in the liver and muscles, or as fat. However, due to poor dietary habits consisting of high levels of processed carbs, many of us have developed a certain level of what is known as insulin resistance. This means that body is not able to effectively use insulin.
Side note: Many weight loss programs are doomed to failure because they do not address one important aspect and cause of weight gain; the hormones. (See: Why You Cannot Lose Weight)
The result is increased fat storage (or obesity) along with other health risks such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
How Carb Blockers And Carb Control Compounds Work
Certain foods and compounds have been found to potentially influence the way the body manages carbs, which can influence bodyweight. These work in one of two ways:
- Block carbs: Also known as starch blockers, carbohydrate blockers block amylase, a compound that helps digest carbs. This causes the carbs (and calories) to pass through the system undigested.
- Improve insulin sensitivity: When your body is sensitive to insulin, only a small of the hormone amount needed to clear glucose from your system is released into your bloodstream. This is a good a thing as the presence of insulin can negatively affect fat burning.
Natural Carb Control Foods And Herbs: Plus Their Downsides
Let’s face it. Like calorie-counting, carb-counting is boring. What if there was a way to manage carbs without the need for drastic cutting?
Here are certain foods and herbs that may help block carbs or improve insulin sensitivity so you potentially burn more fat. These include:
White Kidney Beans
Also known as cannellini, white kidney beans are high in dietary fiber, protein and other nutrients. As you may know, high fiber foods make you feel full faster and longer, which is great for appetite control and weight loss. But there is more to this legume as far as fat loss goes.
White kidney beans may inhibit the enzyme amylase (or alpha-amylase) from breaking down carbs. This may cause less carbs – and therefore calories – to be absorbed in the body which can result in reduction in overall bodyweight. But does it really work?
In one 30-day study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, subjects receiving white bean extract showed significantly greater reduction in fat mass and body mass index (BMI) compared to the placebo.
Unfortunately, a number of contradicting studies have also shown that kidney beans not to be effective for losing weight.
In order for white kidney beans to be potentially effective in blocking carbs, you have to eat them regularly (read daily) with along with your carbohydrates, and in significant amounts. Not many people can tolerate this.
White Kidney Bean Side Effects
Mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas and bloating have been reported. Well, beans are known for their gas-producing effects so this is not unexpected.
White Kidney Bean Supplements
White kidney bean extract supplements, sometimes called Phase 2, are available and are easier to take than eating several platefuls of beans every day. Make sure to read the label to ascertain that the active ingredient is listed as well as amounts per serving.
Video: White Kidney Beans And Other Natural Fat Fighters
Ah, the aroma of cinnamon! This herb that has been used as a spice for centuries can also help you stay fit and healthy. Cinnamon is not actually a carb blocker, but an insulin mimicker. What this means is that it imitates the biological function of insulin but without the harmful spike that can lead to fat storage.
Since cinnamon has a sweet taste, it may also satisfy the cravings for sugary foods that diabetics often experience. Even better, cinnamon may be beneficial for regulating blood sugar.
While cinnamon has a pleasant flavor and smell, you need significant amounts for it to be effective for fat loss. Not many can tolerate taking it day in day out several times a day. Not only that but, the cinnamon you buy at your local grocery store contains very little of the active compound and may not be effective.
Cinnamon Side Effects
Overall, cinnamon is safe to use for most people when used in the right doses (1-6 grams daily). Heavy use can irritate mouth and lips.
Cinnamon supplements available in capsule form. However, you still have to take multiple pills to obtain the benefits. Cinnamon supplements can differ greatly, with some cheap ones containing only a smattering of the active ingredients.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Like cinnamon, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an insulin mimicker – it mimics the action of insulin but without the fat storage effects. An antioxidant, ALA is made naturally in our bodies in small amounts. While other antioxidants are either water or water soluble, ALA is both water and fat soluble. This means that it can work throughout the body.
Various studies have shown that ALA to reduce insulin resistance as well as help lower blood sugar levels.
ALA Side Effects
Alpha lipoic acid is safe to use for most people. People with diabetes should consult a health care professional as well as check their blood sugar as ALA may lower blood sugar levels.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Supplements
Alpha lipoic acid supplements are popular and therefore are available in stores including health stores, pharmacies and grocery stores. This means there are a lot of junk products out there. Take care to buy a quality brand that will offer you the beneficial ingredients and avoid basing your decision on price alone.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been linked to various health benefits including weight loss. ACV may inhibit enzymes that break down carbs, may decrease the amount of glucose that enters your blood cells. This means less glucose enters your system to be stored as fat. This could result a smaller waist and lower body weight overall.
Taking two teaspoons of ACV with a carbohydrate-containing meal has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which may be beneficial in losing weight as well as managing blood sugar.
ACV Side Effects
Among the side effects associated with apple cider vinegar includes delayed stomach emptying (when taking in large doses) and low potassium in long-term use. Low potassium levels could lead to weaker bones. It may also cause erosion of teeth enamel. Throat and skin burns from the acid are other potential negative effects.
It is recommended that you dilute the vinegar in water (two teaspoons in a glass of water) before drinking it, and to rinse mouth with water after.
Downsides of ACV
Taking ACV before or after every meal is not something many would want to do. Long-term use is not recommended, therefore cycling it (on and off) may be the best way to go.
Should You Use Carb Blocker Supplements?
As we have seen, carb blocker and carb control supplements are two different things. Some health experts have expressed doubts that carbs can actually be eliminated through waste. Rather than taking carb blocker pills, improving insulin sensitivity may be the better option. Why?
Because improving insulin sensitivity (or lowering insulin resistance) is about helping your body better manage carbohydrates, so they are not less likely to be stored as fat. There are supplements that contain compounds shown to help with this.
Carb management is not just about eating less carbs (or blocking them). Rather than block carbs it may be better to manage how your body uses them. Click here to check out how you can burn fat while eating carbs.
 WebMD: Cinnamon
* None of the statements on this page have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement especially if you are pregnant, nursing, have known health condition or on medications.