Nixing bread, rice, pasta, cereal, and all those sugar-packed treats you associate with your childhood might be your idea of a good health quest these days. (Or is it just my friends?) But it's one thing to turn down the white dinner rolls at a restaurant and another to swear off every carbohydrate on the menu.
About 200 to 400 grams of carbohydrates (aka 45 to 65 percent of your diet) is the nutritionist-approved ballpark most adults should shoot for each day, according to registered dietitian and nutritionist Bridget Murphy, MS, RDN, CDN, from NYU Langone Medical Center. Anything less is considered "low-carb." Not an end-of-the-world approach to eating, says Murphy, so long as you fill in the gaps with enough vegetables (and fruit). But if your carb intake drops below 20 grams a day, you enter a legit danger zone.
Still not convinced carbs are OK? Then pay attention to these nine serious downsides of not eating enough of them:
1. Your breath may smell really bad.
Low-carb diets are known for making your exhalations smell rotten. Blame the ketone molecules your body makes when you deprive it of its preferred source of fuel: glucose (aka sugars, aka carbs). Studies show people with higher levels of ketones coursing through their bloodstreams report more symptoms of nasty breath. You may have gotten the memo if the people you're trying to talk to—or make out with—suddenly start pulling away.
2. Your mouth may feel like cotton.
Ketones also dry out your mouth and keep you constantly thirsty. Drinking enough water to offset this effect can obviously help. But seriously, how many times do you want to dip out of a conversation, meeting, or intimate moment to chug some water?
3. You'll probably feel exhausted.
Low fuel plus the extra effort your cells make to power you past an afternoon slump = sooo tired. All the tiiiime. Also? By lowering your carb intake, your blood sugar drops, says senior nutrition fellow at the American Council on Science and Health Ruth Kava, PhD, RD. That makes for another massive hit to your energy.
4. Dizziness may ensue.
Going low-carb can lead to weight loss. But a lot of that's water, says Kava. (Sorry.) Good news if you want to see the scale number go down. Bad news if you'd prefer not to flush out key minerals like potassium and magnesium—without which you may feel woozier than you would if you just let yourself eat the damn oatmeal macadamia white chocolate cookie you can't stop thinking about.
5. Nausea? Also a thing.
Not enough carb intake plus the peeing-out-key-minerals that happens as a consequence may also make you feel like you're about to vom.
6. You'll probably stop pooping.
Carbohydrates (think: whole grains and, of course, veggies) are prime sources of fiber, Kava reminds us. Fiber helps keep you regular. Without it, expect a serious backup inside your small intestine. (If this is already a problem for you, here are 11 easy ways to get things moving again. Including: eating carbs.)
7. You can seriously stress out your kidneys.
Again. Ketones. They're highly acidic, says Murphy. Pumping more of them into your bloodstream means your blood gets acidic too. This can raise your risk of developing kidney stones and may contribute to bone loss (in extreme cases. But still!).
8. You may invite more binges.
"When we're feeling tired, stressed, or just really hungry, the no. 1 thing our body craves is fast, easy, sugar," Murphy explains. Chocolate frosting may not be the wisest answer. But the more you forbid anything, the more appealing it becomes. Plus, the lower our blood sugar drops, the less control you have over impulses to scarf the whole pizza when you only wanted one slice.
Plan ahead, Murphy advises, by loading up on the complex, good-for-you carbs—like veggies, whole grains, and fruits—if you really want to feel sated.
9. Life can legit suck more.
Why riddle yourself with unnecessary anxieties surrounding an entire group of food? Really, why? (Take it from someone who's #BeenThere.) Unless it's medically necessary for you to obsess over your carbohydrate intake, give yourself a break and remember to keep meal times pleasurable. Not only will this make you a happier person overall, it can actually enable you to hear your stomach's "I'm full" signals better. (Which, if you're really concerned about weight loss, is a much better strategy for shedding pounds.)
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.