Confused About Carbs?

Are you confused about carbs (carbohydrates) and whether you should cut them out of your diet to lose weight? The NHS says that “sugar is a carbohydrate but not all carbohydrate are sugars”. No wonder we’re confused!

What are carbs? Let’s simplify things by breaking down carbs into 3 types:

  1. Sugar (simple carbohydrate) – This includes natural sugar in fruit, vegetables, juices and milk, as well as sugar added to foods and drinks. Consuming sugar results in a fast release of energy and rise in blood sugar. As we all know, too much sugar leads to weight gain.
  2. Starch (complex carbohydrate) – This is found in plants and in foods like pasta and bread. Starch has a much steadier, healthier release of energy into the bloodstream compared to simple carbohydrates.
  3. Fibre (non-starch carbohydrate) – This also comes from plants but is indigestible. Fibre is vital for (and there’s no polite way of saying this) helping you poo.  

Do we need carbs? Yes! They provide:

  • Fuel – Carbs are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream to give you energy. A diet which is low in carbohydrates can leave you feeling sluggish.
  • Protection from disease – Research shows that diets high in starch and fibre can lower the risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes and can also reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Better digestion – Fibre helps in the transportation of foods through the digestive tract and prevents constipation and digestive problems.
  • Healthy calorie intake – By replacing sugary foods and drinks with starch and fibre foods, you’re likely to eat fewer calories. As starch and fibre also add bulk to meals, this can help you feel fuller and lose weight.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Cutting out carbs can be a health risk because you also risk cutting out essential vitamins and minerals from your diet.

The Governments EatWell Guide shows that our meals should be mainly made up of starch and fibre foods (wholegrain foods, vegetables, etc). So it’s all about picking the healthy carbs, rather than trying to avoid carbs altogether.

It’s all about the healthy carbs! Here are a few ideas of starch and fibre foods to help you:

  • Wholemeal bread
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wholegrain rice
  • Skin-on potatoes
  • Vegetables (frozen or fresh)
  • Fruit
  • Beans, including baked beans
  • Pulses
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Cereals, like porridge.

So if you feel the need to “go low-carb” just aim to cut out the sugary foods and drinks, not the starch and fibre foods. It’s all about eating a balanced, healthy diet. And your body will thank you 🙂

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