We’ve heard some rather alarming health-related viewpoints being shared, some with far more truth than others. We have decided to do the Myth Busters series, medically validated by the marvels at Nutrition Nation, to shed light on some of the more confusing questions that crop up in a Foodie’s world, specifically regarding what is/is not true when it comes to all the delish things we may be inclined to eat.
Answer – FALSE
This has been one of the great topics of the last 20-30 years if not more. There have been theories and strategies of ‘low carb’ or even ‘no carbs’, which have been commercialized into multi-million dollar industries. These industries, the media, and creative advertising have twisted and manipulated the truth about carbohydrates.
“There is nothing fattening about carbohydrates, what makes you fat is eating too many calories. It’s really very simple. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you consume the same amount of calories that you burn throughout the day, then you will maintain weight”, explains Dilal.
During the heyday of the Atkins and South Beach diets, carbohydrates were categorized as a public enemy. The advertising started, media frenzy took hold and people started removing potatoes, bread and anything else carbohydrate related. This however led to these individuals having health issue’s including weakness, fainting, hair falling out and even bad breath. Longer terms effects include developing diabetes and heart disease.
“Wisdom now says we should choose healthier carbohydrates that are whole grain, and limit the ones with little or no nutritional value”.
What are the benefits of carbohydrates?
As long as you maintain consumption of good carbohydrates, there is a plethora of benefits to eating carbohydrate:
- High in fiber that lowers your cholesterol.
- Have a glycemic index rating. (The glycemic index is a system that rates a foods effect on people’s blood glucose levels).
- High in nutrients.
- Provides a stable energy level without spiking your glucose levels.
- Boosts metabolism and helps you lose fat!
What are healthy carbohydrates?
When you are looking for healthy carbohydrates, look for the unprocessed (or very slightly processed) carbohydrates. Foods that have little or no alteration from their natural state are vital to your good health.
Here some good carbs, which in some cases double up as vegetables:
- Sweet potato
- Brown rice
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain pastas
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
What Carbs should I avoid?
- ‘Processed’ carbohydrates (biscuits, cakes, crackers, crisps etc)
- Sweets and Candy
- Fizzy soft drinks
- Snack foods
- White breads and pastas
The main reason to avoid these items is that they are effectively ‘empty’ calories and provide very little nutrition. We also refer to these as ‘wasted
How much carbs should I eat?
This is an important element that needs clarification. The amount of carbohydrates depends on a number of factors, which will define the optimal amount you should consume.
- Body weight
- Level of activity or exercise
- Metabolic type – You will need to see a nutritionist for this
If you are unsure how to translate this information to your personal carb level, please get in touch with a professional.
You should be eating carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet, unless you have specific reasons for omitting carbohydrates such as specialist endurance sports. The type of carbohydrate you eat is of critical importance and the aim is to avoid the ‘empty’ carbohydrates, which are wasted calories. It is also important to know how much carbs you must individually consume, as every person is different. Reach out for help if you are not sure.
Finally, remember that life is about balance! Don’t feel you need to give up that nice cup cake once in a while, or that Crème Brûlée. The important thing is to enjoy that experience once in a while but for the majority of the time, look after yourself and have a balanced diet!.
Written by Nutrition Nation nutritionist Dilal Ranasinghe.
The team from Nutrition Nation can help you change your life for the better creating long term improvements in all aspects of your life. They offer nutritional counselling and lifestyle guidance for adults and their families in Hong Kong.