Carbs would have to be one of the most demonised food groups on the planet, with many people believing them to be the sole causal link between their eating habits and those un-shiftable kilos. But how much truth is actually behind the claim that ‘carbs make you fat’? And is a low-carb diet really the best option for your health? Today we take a closer look at this intriguing issue.
Carbs, or carbohydrates, are one of three macronutrients our body converts into energy (the other two being fat and protein). When our body breaks down carbs, it creates glucose, which is essential for brain function—without it we would be left feeling sick and fatigued, potentially leading to accumulative health issues.
Carbs exist in two forms—complex and simple. Unprocessed complex carbs, such as sweet potato, oats and ancient grains, are low GI which means they take longer for our body to digest. This keeps our tummies full and cravings in check. Processed simple carbs, like pasta and bread, are in the group that often gets the bad rap, as they aren't as good for our health.
This is because simple carbs aren’t as nutrient-dense, meaning they're not as full of health promoting vitamins and minerals, as their complex counterparts and aren’t as good at sending the ‘I’m full’ signal to our brain, making it easy for us to overindulge
The problem is not the fact we eat carbs, it’s the fact many of us overeat them. Compared to our ancestors, we are eating far greater portions of carbohydrates with far less physical activity, and just like with any food, if we aren’t burning off the calories we are consuming, it will be stored as fat. So the answer to the question is, no—carbs do not make us fat, only the overeating of them affects our health negatively.
Carbs are an essential part of a health-promoting diet. Not only do they keep our energy levels stable, but they prevent eatings binges, which often occur when people are following a low-carb diet. It’s been proven that low-carb diets can be beneficial for weight loss, however these results are unsustainable long term. Instead of dieting, we should be focussing on eating a whole foods diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and hearty complex carbs, with simple carbs as a treat on the odd occasion.
Some of our favourite healthy carbs that you might consider incorporating into your daily diet include brown rice, beans and pulses, ancient grains (like quinoa and barley) and sweet potato. The ‘palm rule’ can be a helpful guide when serving up your carbohydrates—simply serve the quantity of carbs that would fit into your palm. And remember, limiting the amount of simple carbs you consume is beneficial for your health.
We’d love to hear of any healthy carb-rich recipes which are a favourite in your household. Which complex carb do you and your family love to eat?
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