With the ever-growing popularity of low carb diets, many people are switching from saying “Pass me the pasta please” to “I’ll take a pass on the pasta”. These diets, including the well-known keto (short for ketogenic) diet, involve limiting all forms of carbohydrates in favour of protein and fats. But does cutting carbs really live up to its reputation as an amazing weight loss strategy with stellar health benefits? Here’s what you need to know (spoiler alert: it’s more detrimental than you think!).
Myth 1: “Carbohydrates aren’t healthy”
Carbohydrates are essential for a healthy body. They’re the primary fuel source for the brain, and all of the other cells in your body. A lot of people conjure up images of white rice, white bread, pizza and cake whenever the word ‘carbs’ is mentioned – but carbohydrates also cover a broad range of nutritious foods like unprocessed wholegrains, legumes, dairy, fruit and veg.
When you cut these foods out, you short-change your body on a range of valuable nutrients. Fibre is one example, which is needed for good digestive health, making our toilet trips a much smoother process. The phytonutrients that help to prevent disease are also found abundantly in carbohydrate rich foods. B-group vitamins, such as thiamine, are also hard to come by without carbohydrates, so your body will struggle to produce the energy it needs. And don’t forget about calcium from dairy foods, which is important for strong bones and teeth.
Myth 2: “Carbohydrates will make me gain weight”
The main motivation for the recent carb-cutting trend is the belief that carbs alone cause weight gain. However, weight gain comes from an excess in overall kilojoules (or energy) which can come from any food source, including protein or fat. In the short term, following a low-carb diet may cause weight loss simply through the restriction on energy intake but these diets are often unsustainable for the long term as they make it difficult to meet your daily nutritional needs.
In fact, good quality carbohydrates from healthy foods can aid in maintaining a healthy weight as they are broken down slowly and provide long-lasting energy to keep you feeling full and satisfied – meaning you are far less likely to snack on extra bits and bobs throughout the day or reach for the biscuit jar come 3pm!
Myth 3: “Carbohydrates are bad for diabetes”
Having good quality carbohydrates contributes to achieving a healthy well-balanced diet, whether you have diabetes or not. Individuals with diabetes do have to be more mindful of the type and amount of carbs they eat, but they certainly don’t need to avoid them altogether.
Complex carbohydrates from nutritious unprocessed foods (e.g. whole grains and legumes) have a low glycaemic index (low GI) and are broken down slowly, resulting in a gradual rise and fall of blood sugars over time. In comparison, the more processed high GI carbohydrate foods (e.g. white varieties of bread/rice/pasta, pastries, soft drinks and lollies) are digested quickly and cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels, leaving you hungry and searching for more.
In addition to choosing the right type of carbohydrate, it is also important to spread the amount of carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar.
After debunking these notorious carbohydrate myths, it is safe to say that a more realistic plan would be to skip the restriction and eat a properly portioned amount of healthy, complex carb-rich foods with every meal!
Struggling to find new, healthy recipe ideas? Click here for HWFL’s selection of healthy recipes!