Could it be an actual addiction?

By Kryzette Papagayo | Photo by Carissa Gan/Unsplash

Carbs. A word that conjures both the best the food world has to offer as well as images of unhealthy portions, bingeing, and cravings.

My relationship with food has been episode after episode of losing control, taking the power back, and doing the cycle all over again. Cutting carbs out of my diet is tough and science agrees with me on this.

The gravity of carb-craving can sometimes go overboard, so much so that some people become carb addicts. Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig tells My Domaine, “Once you’re exposed to a little carbohydrate, and you get an insulin rise from it, that forces energy into fat cells and that deprives your other cells of the energy they would otherwise have utilized—in essence, starvation. So you compensate by getting hungry, particularly for more carbohydrate. High insulin drives carb-craving.”

So why can’t we quit carbs? Here are a few points I’d like to argue:

Rice is Ingrained in Our Culture

I’ve only started realizing that there are alternative options to rice and a viand meal. This is monumental, especially because of the consumption culture I grew up with. For Filipinos, rice is so much more than something to eat; it’s also about sustenance and history. To quit rice is a lot like giving up the full dining experience. Navigating a carb-free diet when you’re Filipino can be challenging—our heritage dishes are best partnered with rice. I mean, what good is an adobo without a cup of garlic rice?

To quit rice is a lot like giving up the full dining experience. Navigating a carb-free diet when you’re Filipino can be challenging—our heritage dishes are best partnered with rice

The Case of Comfort Carbs

Apparently, that quick fix of pizza and pasta affects your mood and temperament by sending serotonin to the brain. Shape reports on the notion that consumption of carbs provide comfort. “You might experience a temporary calm feeling after eating a high-carb, low-protein meal and perhaps get a boost in serotonin,” says Eva Selhub, M.D., medical director for Lighten Up. However, this serotonin boost is more often than not temporary.

Carbs are Not the Real Enemy

It’s overconsumption and eating way beyond the healthy portions. Given that, too much of anything can contribute to weight-gain and unhealthy eating habits. Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health shares with Washington Post, “It’s easier for a lot of people to cut off whole categories of food than to eat moderately.”

While the usual suspects (rice, pizza, pasta) are the first things that come to mind when you think about carbs, it’s also important to note that it’s encompassing, going through a variety of food groups and types. It can be divided into three groups: sugar (that can be found in fruits and vegetables), starch (from rice and beans), and fiber (whole grains and soy beans).

Knowing what your body needs, above anything, is key to understanding how much carb you can take in but still maintain a healthy diet. Med-health recommends 1,300 calories if your everyday lifestyle requires minimal work or physical movement or up to 3,000 if you’re a sporty person.