I don’t know who needs to read this, but this is just a friendly reminder that carbohydrates (carbs) are not the enemy. You do not need to cut it from your diet to be ‘healthy’ or to ‘lose weight’.
Carbohydrates are one of 3 macronutrients found in food – the others are protein and fat. Macronutrients are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provides us with energy. Carbohydrates should be the body’s main source of energy in the diet. Before I list my top 7 reasons why carbs are not the enemy, it is worth mentioning that are there are different types of carbs found in food: sugar, starch and dietary fibre. With regards to sugar – most of us showuld be limiting our intake of free sugars which are added to some foods and drinks like fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and chocolate.
Starchy carbs and high-fibre foods are really important for our general health and wellbeing and we should be basing our meals with these types of carbs like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. Where possible, we should opt for wholegrain options to up our fibre intake.
So…here are 7 reasons why carbs are not the enemy…but our friend:
- They are an important source of energy.
Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar (a.k.a. glucose) before it’s absorbed in your blood. Glucose enters the body’s cells with the help of insulin and glucose is used by the body for energy to fuel our daily activities. Starchy carbs that are higher in fibre release glucose into the blood slower compared to sugary foods and drinks.
2. Our brain needs it.
Our brain needs adequate energy supply to help us concentrate & focus – this comes from blood glucose. The brain uses about 20% of the body’s overall energy. Even though we need glucose to help us concentrate, once blood glucose is within the ideal range, you cannot further boost your concentration levels by boosting your glucose levels. So…having more sugary energy drinks are not necessary in this case…
3. Bread, rice, eba, fufu, potatoes & pasta are not the only sources of carbs.
This might shock a few people but some fruits, vegetables, dairy products like milk, & wholegrains also contain carbohydrates… Also, no single food contains only one nutrient, most are a combination of carbs, protein, fat & micronutrients in different amounts.
4. Carbs are not ‘fattening’
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) showed that there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion on the association between starchy carbs intake & weight gain. Having said this, starchy foods combined with ingredients or other foods that are high in free sugars or fat can increase calorie content.
If starchy foods are not cooked or served with lots of free sugars, fat & portion sizes are moderate, they do not contain a lot of calories. Carbs contain less calories per gram compared to fat & alcohol. Weight gain may result from eating more calories than the body uses for some people. Calories can be from any source like protein, fat or alcohol not just carbs.
5. Wholegrain varieties are good sources of fibre
Wholelgrain varieties like wholemeal slice bread or pitta bread, brown rice, ofada rice, bulgur wheat and wholewheat pasta are sources of fibre. Fibre is an important nutrient for the normal functioning of the gut. It aids digestion, prevents and relieves constipation. Fibre can also help lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Having said this, high fibre intake is associated with reduced risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease & bowel cancer.
Most of us should be increasing our fibre intake as most adults are eating about 18g per day. Current UK guidelines recommend that adults should increase to 30g a day.
6. Starchy foods contains other important vitamins & minerals.
They contain calcium, iron, B vitamins, phosphorous, zinc and so many other micronutrients which are all important for normal bodily functions.
7. They taste sooooo good!
Most people enjoy carbs because they taste delicious! Don’t avoid or deprive yourself of food that you enjoy having. Aim to have the right portion size to suit your needs & be mindful of how often you’re consuming certain types of carbs (like simple/free sugars).
So in summary, carbs are actually our friend! and we should not be demonising this food group at all. Let’s choose to enjoy carbohydrates as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Information provided in this post is for the general population and is not intended to replace dietary or medical advice given. If you have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, please speak to your Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Nurse for tailored advice on carbohydrate intake.