When watching your waistline, carbohydrates - not calories - can prove the dietary enemy. But they don’t have to be if you choose carbs in moderation. Emma-Charlotte Bangay takes a bite into the best.
What are Carbs?
There are two types of carbohydrates, explains Carbs By Numbers co-author, Sandra Dunbar. "The first is refined (simple) and the second is unrefined (complex)," she explains. "It is the refined or highly processed ones that are giving carbs a bad rap because they are absorbed quickly increasing blood sugar levels," she says. "They are predominantly found in processed foods and drinks, white bread, pasta and soft drinks to name a few.”
Unrefined or complex carbs are broken down and released more slowly, Sandra adds. These are the ones we should be choosing.
“Good carbs are low fat dairy without added sugar like milk, yoghurt and cheese, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes,” Sandra notes.
“Not so good carbs are essentially any refined or highly processed foods like white bread or pasta or ones with lots of added sugar like pastries, cakes, doughnuts and soft drinks.”
Do we need carbs?
“Our body requires carbohydrates and it is normal that we feel like eating them as part of a balanced meal," explains Carbs By Numbers co-author, Meg Pell. “When this becomes an issue is when we start to crave highly processed carbohydrates and sugary foods.”
When we eat high sugar foods that are easily absorbed into the blood the body reacts by releasing serotonin, Meg continues. “Serotonin is a hormone in the brain that makes us feel good. If we eat high sugar or simple carbohydrate foods it can become like any other addiction and we begin to crave that serotonin (feel good) hit.”
What are the benefits of carbs prepared and eaten the right way?
“When we consume the right types of carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet there are a wide variety of benefits,” she adds.
- Energy: Carbohydrates are an essential energy source, as we require carbohydrates to provide energy for lots of bodily functions, especially for providing our brains with energy.
- Fullness/Satiety: When we eat the right type of carbohydrate (complex also known as low GI or slow release) they release energy slowly and consistently over time; this helps to keep us full throughout the day
- Digestion and Heart Health: Wholegrains are not only a source of carbohydrate but also are our main source of fibre. "Fibre has been shown to improve bowel movements and be cardio-protective," says Meg.
Three top tips to smarter carb consumption?
- Don’t cut out all carbs – they make an essential part of a balanced diet!
- Mix it up – try different types of carbohydrates, not all carbs need to be bread of pasta. "Carbohydrate foods are exciting and delicious so enjoy variety," Sandra advises.
- Choose the right types of carbohydrates - avoid processed foods and go for wholegrains and whole foods. "They will give you long lasting energy and keep you full," Sandra concludes.