Carbohydrates needn’t be a swear word

Do you eat too many carbs?

Toast or cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and maybe pasta for dinner!

I’ve found this isn’t uncommon, in fact I used to be a bit of a carb fiend myself. But don’t panic, I’m not about to tell you stop eating all carbs, after all they are an essential food group. It’s more about the kind and quantity of carbs you eat.

Carbohydrates are a chemical compound made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that converts to glucose when eaten. This is what gives the body its energy to function, from our brains to our central nervous system.

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We can get some energy from protein and fats too but carbs are the most efficient form and our brain relies solely on carbs for energy.

There are different types of carbohydrates!

Simple = refined such as sugar, potatoes, white flour. They are of a simple chemical makeup and are quickly turned into glucose in the body. These are good if you are experiencing an energy slump and need a quick boost but beware, you’re more likely to have another energy crash not long after.

Complex = brown rice, wholemeal bread, pulses. These take longer to digest which means you have a more steady release of energy. You won’t get an excessive release of insulin which means you’ll be fuller for longer and fewer carbs will be stored as fat.

The third type = Ingestible carbs in other words fibre. So your fruits, vegetables and some of the complex carbs like wholemeal bread and brown rice. Fibre slows the absorption of carbs so you regulate blood sugar and it’s good for keeping your bowels healthy too. You should get at least 18g of fibre a day but unfortunately most people are only getting around 12.6g a day.

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If you cut out your carbs completely the body has to look for an alternative energy source and this will usually be protein. Unfortunately, if your body is using protein to function it is not allowing protein to do its job such as helping to create new cells, tissue and enzymes. You can also develop ketosis. This is when your body burns stored fat for energy due to lack of carbs. Sounds like a great solution I know but it can have side effects such as lack of energy, nausea, headaches, bad breath and dizziness.

That’s why diets such as Atkins are not good for you. If you eat too much protein you also create an acid environment in the body where as complex carbs create alkaline so it’s important to have a balance. But evidence does show that people on a low carb diet lose more weight than those on a low fat diet. The key here is low carb, it doesn’t say no carb diet, the important thing is to make sure the carbs you do eat are complex and ingestible like fruit, veg, beans and wholegrain.

It’s the refined carbs that gives people the idea that all carbs are bad. Refined grains have had the bran or germ removed from them which creates a finer texture and improves shelf life but this process also removes dietary fibre, iron and B vitamins. These are the one’s you need to stay away from if you want to lose weight and stay healthy. They are empty calories as they often don’t possess much nutritional value but will spike your blood sugar very quickly which in turn will cause your pancreas to release insulin. Increases in insulin encourage the body to store energy from food rather than burn it. The excess glucose will then be converted into fat and get stored in the adipose tissue, which leads to weight gain.

So once again, it’s not about eliminating this food group but making sure you get carbohydrates in the right form and have them in moderation.

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