In defence of carbs

Carbs have been unfairly demonised in the past few years. So, let’s get one thing straight here: carbs are not inherently bad for you and although they can contribute to weight they are not the sole cause of weight gain. You can gain weight gain if you overeat too much of ANY food group. So let’s stop blaming the carbs. 

A little biochemistry lesson: carbs are your body and your brain’s preferred source of energy (your brain uses around 5g of glucose per hour even when you are sedentary). They are broken down into glucose during digestion, then you body metabolises the glucose into ATP, the energy currency in your body (remember the Krebs cycle anyone?). Any glucose not immediately needed as energy is then stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles for another time.

Good and Bad Carbs:

Before we go further, let’s address this. You’ve probably heard me say before…there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, it is never that simple in nutrition and associating these positive and negative terms with food can facilitate disordered eating and unhealthy relationships with food. In light of this, instead of ‘good’ carbs a neutral name is ‘complex carbs’ – these are digested more slowly because of their fibre content meaning you get a steady supply of energy, as opposed to a blood sugar spike. Complex carbs include wholegrains foods : brown breads, rye, brown rice, oats, quinoa. Then ‘simple carbs’ are lower in fibre so the glucose from these is  released quicker. This does not make them “bad”, they can still have a place in your diet: for instance they can be useful when you need a quick burst of energy. It helps to be smart about what you consume with these simple carbs: for instance, pairing them with healthy fats and proteins helps slow down the release of sugars into your bloodstream. How about having almond butter on white bread or pairing a medjool date with some nut butter or a handful of almonds- this clever little hack will ensure a steady release of energy. 

Your nutrition, diet and ultimately, your health is so much more than just your weight. Carbohydrates can have a direct affect our energy levels, our mood (carbs are involved in the production of serotonin, our happy hormone)  and gut health (due to the fibre intake), plus our mental health. There is also some research suggesting gut health has an impact on our mental health this means carbs could impact our mental health too! 

So, here’s the take home message – carbohydrates aren’t bad for you, so let’s to stop vilifying them. Be smart about your choices and quantity of them: try to focus more on the complex fibre rich carbs but don’t feel guilty about including simple carbs in your diet every now and again as they can have a place in your diet. Be mindful of portion sizes – this is where people go wrong and overeat carbs because they’re so delicious, moreish and quite frankly, super satisfying! I don’t know about you but I feel a meal doesn’t feel complete without some form of carb.  I can’t stress enough that food is not just fuel for your body, it’s a source of pleasure and enjoyment – we have enough stresses in our lives as it is, so food should not be an extra source of anxiety…it should be enjoyed. Carbohydrates are essential if you want your body functioning optimally. 

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