Carbohydrates and fats are the two major sources of energy in our diet. A diet that provides abundant carbohydrates (45-65% of energy intake) and some fat (20-35% energy intake) best supports good health.
Carbohydrates, especially those high in whole grains, may protect against heart disease and stroke. Additionally, they reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and help to maintain a healthy body weight.
There are 2 types of carbohydrates: Simple and Complex.
Simple carbohydrates are quickly and easily broken down by your body. Therefore they do not keep you full for a long time resulting in you being hungry very quickly. Simple carbohydrates are found in table sugar, candy and fast food and should be eaten in moderation.
Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, digest through your body much slower and therefore keep you full for longer. Fiber is what separates a complex carbohydrate from a simple one (as fiber is found in complex carbohydrates and not in simple carbohydrates). Fibre can be found in fruit and vegetables, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta, and pulses (beans and lentils).
Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrates in your diet, such as wholegrains, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and legumes.
Despite all the amazing above benefits, there have been a number of myths about carbohydrates that make us stay away from them:
Myth 1: Carbs make you gain weight
Carbohydrates actually contain fewer calories gram for gram than fat – 4 calories (4kcal) per gram for carbs and 9 calories (9kcal) per gram for fat.
Replacing carbohydrates with fats and higher fat sources of protein could increase your intake of saturated fat, which can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood – a risk factor for heart disease.
Myth 2: All white food should be avoided
Carbohydrates, found in many white foods, are crucial to your health and should not be avoided altogether.
In fact, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source. However, it would benefit your health to choose the right carbohydrates. White fruits and vegetables are loaded with beneficial nutrients that provide sustained energy and can help prevent disease.
White foods you should definitely NOT avoid are:
• White beans
Myth 3: Fruit is bad because its high in carbs
The truth is that fruit is dense in nutrients. Fruit contains a natural form of sugar called fructose and provides fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Avoid fruit juice as it is more concentrated in fructose but loses fiber in the juicing process.
Inna Merkin is a qualified nutritionist (and mum of three!) helping women find out what health means to them and their families. She teaches skills and strategies that focus on eating a flexible, intuitive diet and feeding your kids the same way.