Diet Choices: The Pros and Cons of a High-Carb Diet

Much attention is often given to low-carb diets. You’ve probably seen several diet recommendations that suggest reducing your carbohydrate intake. However, being the body’s main energy source, you begin to wonder if this food is that bad for your health.

Carbohydrates are found mainly in plant foods, and the essential nutrient plays several vital roles in living organisms. Read on as we discuss the health benefits and negative effects of a high-carb diet. Knowing the pros and cons of this controversial nutrient will help you determine if it is a great fit for you.

What is a High-Carb Diet?

There is no generally accepted definition for high-carb meal plans. However, a 2015 study classified any diet with up to 53% of its calories from carbohydrates as a high-carb diet. Based on this research, you’re on a high-carb diet if you get more than 53% of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates.

Furthermore, a report from the Institute of Medicine advises that you get 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs. Overall, experts agree that the number of grams of carbohydrates you should eat depends on your daily needs.

Benefits of a High-Carb Diet

Here are some of the health perks of maintaining a high-carb diet:

Available Energy

One of the most common reasons a health expert recommends a high-carbohydrate diet is to raise your energy levels. Carbohydrate foods are an excellent source of energy. They provide quick energy that your body can easily access when it’s needed the most.

Carbohydrates are directly processed, and the resulting glucose is sent into the bloodstream to be used as fuel. High-carb diets are great for athletes who need a quick burst of energy to train harder during intense physical activity.

Improved Brain Function

Another major benefit of eating carbs is that it can up your brain function. Your brain needs glucose to function optimally; however, it can’t store much of this sugar. If glucose falls below optimal levels, it could impair cognitive and reflex function.

A Havard study linked basic brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this sugar fuel. Eating a high-carb meal can help you stay focused and energized all day.

Easy Access to Key Nutrients

A high-carb diet may also increase your access to other key nutrients and minerals. Natural carb foods usually have a higher nutrient profile than low-carb meals as they contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

For example, most fruits contain nutrients like vitamins B & C, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which you may struggle to find in other food groups. In addition, they support energy production in the body.

Prevents Weight Gain

A high-carbohydrate diet can also help prevent weight gain. Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study of middle-aged women. They found that those on a high-fiber diet lost weight, while others who decreased their fiber intake gained.

Most carbohydrates are rich in fiber, an extremely slow digesting form of the nutrient. Fiber also ups your satiety index, making you feel fuller and ensuring you eat less over a long period.

Dangers of a High-Carb Diet

Here we’ll discuss the adverse effects of a high-carb diet.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, consuming too many carbohydrates may leave you fatigued. While a high-carb meal may temporarily raise blood glucose levels and energize your body and brain, a rapid decrease in blood glucose happens after the rise.

The sharp decrease in blood sugar reduces the activity of neurons responsible for your sleep/wake pattern and drains your energy. In the end, your sleep may be disrupted, and you’ll be exhausted the following day.

Carb Addiction

A high-carb diet may cause you to crave more carbs. Research in the Archives of General Psychiatry shows that eating too many sugary carbohydrates may trigger your brain in ways similar to substance abuse and alcohol consumption.

Consuming carbohydrates activates the release of dopamine, a pleasure hormone. Experts have associated frequent activation of this hormone with carb cues. Researchers also believe that this reward circuitry may deactivate the areas of the brain that prevent overeating.


High-carb diets contribute to body water retention, making you feel bloated. Various kinds of carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables, may lead to the generation of abdominal gas. Foods that produce the most gas are short-chain carbs like fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

Bloating causes you to burp frequently and leads to abdominal rumbling. In severe cases, it may also cause bloody stools and stomach pain.

Bottom Line

A high-carb diet means that the majority of your calories come from carbs. It has several benefits but comes with repercussions like other extreme diets. If you decide to go with a high-carb diet, speak to your physician or dietician to create a plan that minimizes the health risks.