There are many diets that suggest, if you eat carbs, they make you fat and you should eliminate them from your diet, if you want to lose weight.
Carbohydrates may contribute to weight gain if they are refined, smothered in fatty sauces, or eaten in large quantities, without using the energy your body gains from them.
They are a major food group and vital source of energy that should not be ignored in your diet.
What is a Carbohydrate?
A Carbohydrate is an organic compound containing:
- Hydrogen and oxygen are in the same quantities as water
It is the main source of energy for the body. All carbohydrates incorporate molecules of sugar:
There are three types of Carbohydrate:
Simple Carbohydrates (Processed)
Simple Carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood stream. This causes the blood glucose to rise steeply and fall to a deeper level, making you need more food to help the glucose levels stabilise.
They tend to be processed and lack nutrients and are found in:
- White bread
- Biscuits, pastries and cakes
- White flour
- White pasta
- Sugary processed breakfast cereals
- White rice
Complex Carbohydrates (Unprocessed)
Complex carbohydrates keep you full for longer and provide a slower, sustained release of energy.
They are unprocessed and no natural fibre has been extracted from them.
Good sources include:
- Brown rice
- Wholemeal flour
- Wholemeal breads
- Root vegetables
- Wholemeal cereals
- Sweet corn
- Wholegrain cereals
- Wholemeal pasta
- Sweet Potato
Fibre has no nutrients and cannot be absorbed, as its sugar molecules are indigestible in the stomach
Why do we need fibre?
Fibre provides bulk to foods and helps them pass through the gut easily and feeds the good bacteria in our guts.
Too much may cause blockages, if it doesn’t travel through the gut fast enough, or gas and diarrhoea if it irritates the intestinal tract.
What Are the Benefits of Carbohydrates?
Gives You Energy
Carbohydrates are your main source of energy in your diet. One gram of carbohydrates provides four calories of energy.
They break down into glucose, which enters the bloodstream and provides energy to your body and brain.
Glucose is stored as glycogen, which converts to fat stored in the body. Large portions of carbohydrates may produce too much glycogen
Source of Fibre
The wholegrain version of carbohydrates mean that the fibre has not been stripped from the food. Fibre helps eliminate waste from the body.
Vegetables Are Good Carbs
The amount of carbohydrates in vegetables will give you small amounts of energy and provide other nutrients that are beneficial to your body.
Fibre helps feed good bacteria in your gut. The more good bacteria you have the healthier your body is.
Good sources are:
The main trigger for a good mood, after you eat carbs, is tryptophan. This is an non-essential amino acid that gets coverted to serotonin in the brain.
Good sources are:
- Sweet Potato
The Cracker Test
The Cracker Test is a test to see how much carbohydrate you should eat. It was done by Geneticist Dr Sharon Moalem.
Try it by chewing a plain cracker.
You can see how your body copes with carbohydrates by the number of seconds it takes for it to taste sweet, or the flavour to change:
- Below 30 seconds, you are probably ok with the way your body processes carbs.
- Below 15 seconds, you are very good at processing carbohydrates.
- Above 30 seconds, you may need to consider a low carbohydrate diet.
How does this work?
An enzyme in your saliva (salivary amylase) breaks down the cracker into glucose.
The more of the enzyme you have, the quicker the taste will change and the better your body is at processing carbohydrates.
What is the Best Way to Eat Carbohydrates?
Low Carb Diet
*** A low carb diet being followed for medical reasons needs to be monitored by a registered Nutritionist or Dietitcan. Some medication may be inhibited by certain food. ***
This is why a one diet fits all suggestion is usually not advised. Everyone has a different physiology and may react in different ways and this is often why people give up on diets they don’t think work. It may not be that they don’t work, it may be more that they are not suitable for them.
The amount of carbohydrates you need may vary depending on your age, gender, activity levels and metabolism.
Eat Wholegrain Products
If you want to eat carbs that are good for you brown rice, wholewheat pasta and wholegrain bread will keep you fuller for longer, as they contain fibre. They have health benefits for your gut too.
Reduce Portion Sizes
It’s easy to pile your plate up with a mountain of spaghetti to go with your Bolognese sauce.
A handful is enough. Fill the rest of the plate up with greens or salad to satisfy your appetite.
Should I Mix Them With Protein?
Carbohydrates and Protein digest at different rates. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should separate them.
You may be missing out on valuable nutrients by not including both in a meal.
The main thing to take into account is that you are eating enough of carbohydrates and protein in one day. Chew your food, eat slowly and mindfully and your digestive system will be happy enough if you are eating the right foods in the right quantities for your body’s needs.
Carbohydrates are very beneficial to you. They can help your mood, give you a healthy gut and give you energy.
They are not the enemy and should be included in your diet. You just have to be mindful about what sauce you flavour them with and the portion sizes you have.
Try the Cracker Test, if you haven’t already, and change your diet to suit your body.