Unless you've been living under a Wi-Fi–free rock for the past couple years, you've probably noticed that carbs are persona non grata when it comes to healthy eating. Popular diets like the ketogenic diet advocate seriously cutting back on carbohydrates while eating more fat and protein. Le sigh. Cheese is great and all, but if you're of the mindset that carbs are life, no amount of raclette is going to ease your soul on a low-carb diet.
Enter: the super carb diet. Touted by former Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper, this diet says "Hey, carbs are ok. Eat them." Harper adopted the diet after having a heart attack last year, and he just came out with a book aptly titled The Super Carb Diet. But what exactly does the diet entail? And is it actually good for you? As lovers of carbs and also health editors, we felt it was our sacred duty to look into this. Here's everything you need to know about the super carb diet.
What is the super carb diet?
"The super carb diet takes a different approach to carbs than many low-carb popular dieting trends," says Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation. "Instead, the super carb diet focuses on eating nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods that are a good source of energy for the body." Basically, the diet focusses on eating slow-burning carbs (more on what those are in a sec), and limited refined carbs and sugar.
What carbs are allowed?
We know what you're really wondering: Can I eat pizza? Alas, no—pizza crust is not the kind of carb you should focus on if you're following this diet. "Unlike many popular diets today, which prohibit or limit carbs, the super carb diet allows plenty of them but focuses on choosing fibre-dense carb sources that are digested slowly," says Lindsey Mathews, head trainer and nutritionist at IdealFit.
Wondering what all that entails? Harper told EatingWell magazine that a typical day of eating for him involves nonfat greek yogurt and berries for breakfast; a big salad with peppers, chicken, and avocado for lunch; and roasted veggies and chicken or fish over brown rice for dinner.
Who can benefit from it?
"If you have a heart condition or high cholesterol, this diet is far superior for your health than a diet that restricts carbs and focuses on fats and protein," Rosen says. Beyond that, she explains that this approach fosters a healthier attitude toward carbs. "One of the fallacies of our modern dieting paradigm is that carbs are evil. This is not so," she says.
Mathews says that many people can benefit from adopting a diet like this. "It could be especially beneficial for those who have tried low-carb diets in the past and found their carb cravings to be too much to handle, or who experienced sickness or other negative side effects from such a diet," she explains.
"Historically, nutritionists have recommended a well-balanced diet for optimal health and wellness, and in theory, the super carb diet is just that," she continues. "While some individuals may find other diets to be helpful for burning fat or building muscle more quickly, the super carb diet seems to promote sensible nutrition principles for long-term healthy living."
Are there any drawbacks?
If you look at the food list above, you'll see that this diet focuses a lot on complex carbs and whole grains. "Much of the population is sensitive to grains and foods containing gluten, so this diet is not for everyone, particularly those with chronic inflammatory conditions," Rosen says. You know your body best; if you can't tolerate these kinds of carbs, don't try to force yourself to just because this diet is trendy. The best healthy eating plan is one you can stick to.
Also, if you're trying to lose weight, this may not be the most effective diet. "When looking for an effective weight-loss diet, some people may find that they're unable to lose fat (or are only able to lose it very slowly) with a diet that includes as many carbs as the super carb diet does," Mathews explains.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
"If you want to try this diet, it's important to remember that it's not only about balancing your macronutrient intakes. You won't be successful with this method if you're eating empty-calorie carbohydrates," Rosen says. Basically, you can't go carte blanche on the carbs—the carbs you eat should come from nutrient-dense foods. "Also, you should be sure that you're also eating enough fruit and vegetables as part of your daily carbohydrate intake," Rosen says.