Carbs: Friend or Foe?

Should carbohydrates be viewed as our friends or foes in the battle against the bulge?

This is the question that many modern day dieters are facing. According to Mr Duncan Hunter, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and and independent advisor to Atkins Nutritionals, the impact of carbohydrate control on the body is well understood.

“Both carbohydrates and fat provide fuel for the body. When carbohydrates are available, the body chooses them first to transform into energy, with excess carbohydrates stored as fat. When carbohydrates are selectively restricted, the body burns fat for fuel instead – including stored body fat – allowing you to lose or maintain weight,”

So the question remains: To carb or not to carb? Duncan Hunter lays down the facts:

Good carbs versus bad carbs

However Mr Hunter believes the real key to the low carb debate - and the impact of carbohydrate control to your overall health - is to firstly understand the difference between ‘good’, low GI carbohydrates and ‘bad’ or empty carbohydrates.

“Low carb shouldn't mean no carb,” said Mr Hunter. “For good health we should instead control our overall carbohydrate intake by consuming lots of “good”, quality carbohydrates – from foods including nutrient dense vegetables, fruits, dairy, whole grains and legumes – and eliminating “bad”, empty carbohydrates from white flour, sugar and other refined foods; which cause our blood sugars or glycaemic response to spike and then drop leaving you quickly feeling hungry and in turn overeating”

The impact of carbs on our health

The “good” carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet for people of all ages, providing important nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre to ensure long lasting energy, brain and body function, cell growth and lifelong health.

On the flip side, consuming too many highly processed, empty carbohydrates can cause brain fog, chronic tiredness, bloating and weight gain – which, when reaching an unhealthy level, can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

Does low carb mean high fat, so high risk?

The number one risk to good health is a diet high in both fat and carbohydrates. The consumption of healthy fats actually helps weight loss and management when you follow a carbohydrate-controlled eating plan.

“Eating plans should include the natural fats from fish, avocado, and olive oil, and are based on the principle that fat intake is detrimental only in the presence of high intake of simple carbohydrates,” he said.

So whats the verdict?

“When it comes to our health there should be no short cuts, and while certain ‘studies’ may generate newspaper headlines, their methodology and conclusions are often found wanting,” said Mr Duncan.

It’s time we started to forget about ‘low fat’ and focus on cutting back refined and starchy high foods like white flour and sugar.

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