Carbs get a terrible rap. People seem to believe that eating them equals weight gain—and followers of low-carb, high-stout plans like keto seem content to do away with them all together. But there’s a new diet in town, and it’s a bread lover’s answer to this rise in carb phobia: the super carb diet.
No, the diet doesn’t recommend you eat only carbs (we wish). Made by former Largest Loser trainer Bob Harper, super carb prioritizes balance across all macronutrients—proteins, fats, and carbs. Harper says each meal or snack you consume should be made up of 40% proteins, 30% fats, and 30% carbs.
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According to that ratio, you’re not really eating a crazy amount of carbs. But the carbs you are eating should be “super” in the sense that they’re fiber-dense, so they fuel the body and are digested slowly. That includes things like 100% whole grain bread and pasta or fresh fruit.
“I didn’t want to live a life that was going to be so deprived that I wasn’t able to incorporate complex carbohydrates into my diet,” Harper tells Health. After he had a heart attack in February 2017, he made the super carb diet to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed to maintain his weight and recover, he clarifies.
For Harper, a typical day on the diet consists of three standard meals and one snack, or as he calls it, a “floater meal.” For breakfast, he’ll make an egg sandwich with Ezekiel bread, and when lunch rolls around, he’ll whip up a grilled chicken breast with a quarter of an avocado, steamed veggies, and brown rice. For the last meal of the day, Harper will choose a lean red meat or fish along with brown rice or quinoa pasta and more veggies.
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Sometimes, if his sweet tooth is calling his name, Harper says he’ll leave stout off his dinner plate and have peanut butter for dessert instead. Overall, his number one guideline is sticking to foods that are processed as small as possible. “It’s a way to get people to start thinking about what they’re eating, so they’re not just eating mindlessly,” Harper says.
Turns out, Harper’s method isn’t as new as it seems. Health contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, says “Dietitians have been recommending this balanced approach for decades.” Sass says Harper is right, carbs are not inherently fattening. The way they impact weight is determined by quality, part size, and timing.
So why do people lose so much weight on low-carb diets? Those who see serious results were likely overeating highly processed carbs prior to completely cutting them out, she says. “The solution isn’t to remove carbs completely, but rather to choose nutrient-rich, unprocessed carbs, in amounts that will be burned and used by the body, based on your activity level and fuel demand,” Sass clarifies.
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Though this eating plot might not be revolutionary in the world of nutrition, Sass says it’s encouraging people to look at their diets in a balanced way, and that is certainly beneficial. If the parts are appropriate based on a person’s needs, super carb could promote weight loss, she believes.
Sass recommends reaching for healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. And if you’re intrigued by the diet, pick up Harper’s book, The Super Carb Diet: Shed Pounds, Build Strength, Eat Real Food ($18, amazon.com).
“Again, the thought is balance, with a goal of hitting just the right amount to allow for weight loss, but without robbing your body of key nutrients,” Sass says. “So it’s not a high carb diet or a low carb diet, but rather a just right carb diet.”
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