Yes, you read it right!
Over the years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation. There’s this misconception that “carbohydrates make you fat”, especially due to some low-carb diets such as Atkins or Paleo diet. These kinds of diets can maybe work for a short period of time, but can rarely be sustained. Going ‘low-carb’ is the most common diet change among people trying to lose weight. However, when you limit carbohydrates, you deprive your body of a main source of fuel and many essential nutrients that you need to stay healthy. Carbohydrates are essential for a healthy body and should not be completely cut out.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are foods that get converted into glucose (sugar), in our bodies during digestion. Although glucose is a form of sugar it is also the main source of fuel for our bodies. It is important for our brain function. Other fuel sources (from fat or protein) are nor as efficient as carbohydrates to produce energy.
There are 2 types of carbohydrates:
Simple carbohydrates – the ‘bad’ carbs: sugary foods such as processed sugar, baked goods, commercial cereals, cookies, honey and dairy products.
Complex carbohydrates – the ‘good’ carbs’: can be either form refined sources or from whole-grain sources which are the most efficient and healthiest fuel: grains, vegetables and legumes/ beans.
So it is not that carbohydrates are bad for you, it’s more about the quality and TYPE of carbs you consume that makes ALL the difference.
Fibre & Carbs
What makes complex whole-grain carbs more complex is fibre. Fibre is important for your digestive health as well as regulating your blood sugar. Foods with fibre, such as broccoli, beans and whole-wheat bread take longer to digest. The glucose (sugar) is released into your bloodstream slower as it would be if you had a croissant, for example.
The croissant and other refined carbohydrates, such as white rice and white pasta, have had their fibre and nutrients removed. Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, did not. This is why the sugar from refined carbohydrates gets into your blood stream faster than the sugar from whole grain carbs.
This is what also makes a difference to fruit which contains glucose, but because it comes with fibre as well, the sugar from a piece of fruit does not affect the blood sugar the same way a fruit juice or sweets with added glucose would.
What happens when I go on a low-carb diet?
The theory that Atkins or Paleo diet use for example is that not getting enough carbohydrates from your diet, makes your body use fat and protein for energy. This is why these diets claim they are great for weight loss, which they are if you are looking fast results. Such diet will deliver weight-loss results in a short period of time, moving away from low-carb diets is a good idea if you are looking forward to long term lifestyle changes, delivering slower but successful results. However low-fat diets are difficult to be sustained over long period, and neither the protein nor the fat is an efficient source of energy.
Going ‘low-carb’ can result in lacking the B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. These are all important part of a healthy lifestyle. On top of carbs being carbs, fruit and starchy vegetables also contain other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which help in diseases prevention.
What happens when I eat whole-grain complex carbs?
Sources: corn, peas, white and sweet potatoes, squashes, wholewheat bread, brown rice, oats, chickpeas, beans, lentils
- these carbs promote the production of serotonin (a feel-good brain chemical) which can boos your mood just like dopamine
- the fibre that these carbs provide is what can help you loose and maintain a healthy weigh longterm without putting yourself through a restrictive diet
- they help to regulate your cholesterol, lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing the HDL (good) cholesterol.
- eating this type of carbohydrates can help in reduction of a total body fat and belly fat
- they will keep your memory sharp
- they won’t spike your blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates. Meaning, insulin levels won’t spike as high. Insulin plays a role in singling your body to store fat, having lower levels may help you burn fat
Have you tried these cool carbohydrate options?
Amaranth – can be eaten sweet as a porridge or savoury as a side dish
Barley (hulled) – can be used in soups
Brown rice – can be replace white rice
Quinoa – mix with vegetables to make a salad or stir-fry
Oats – full of soluble fibre keeping your cholesterol at check
Millet – filling fibre high food good for breakfast or as a side dish
Sweet potato – can replace normal white potatoes