Life on carbs - how to drop the carbs for a healthier diet

PUBLISHED: 12:48 23 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:07 23 December 2015

'Simple' carbs are processed so that no nutrition remains

'Simple' carbs are processed so that no nutrition remains

Archant

Head into the new year with a svelte physique and a spring in your step with our guide on how to lose the bad carbs and the find joy of good carbs.

We know you want just one more warm mince pie washed down with a marshmallow-laden hot chocolate, but all we ask (while enjoying that buttery, crumbly pastry) is that you just consider how carbohydrates affect your body, and perhaps work a little bit of common sense into your lifestyle when it comes to nutrition.

Many of the latest revelations steering us away from sugar and refined carbs - while bringing back fats - are not new at all; we are just heading back to where we used to be before processing on an industrial scale took hold, and fad diets preyed on our insecurities.

So we thought we’d delve a little deeper into some of the ‘healthy advice’ as it seems many of us jump on the bandwagon without really knowing why. Let’s take low GI for example; we know it’s a good thing but why? It’s all about knowing your carbs.

Nuts, fruit and vegetables are good 'complex' carbs and also provide fibreNuts, fruit and vegetables are good 'complex' carbs and also provide fibre

A quick hit is a big miss

Carbs are probably the most demonised of the food groups following the success of some very well-known and celebrity endorsed carb-free diets. The foods that most often spring to mind in this group are bread, pasta, rice and sugar but they form only a small part of the carb family, albeit the bad part.

These ‘simple’ carbs are the ones that give the whole group a bad name; they are highly processed to the point where no nutrition remains. These are also processed by the body very quickly and can alter blood sugar in a negative way. While they are digested in the same way as ‘complex’ carbs (digested into the bloodstream as glucose, which is then used to fuel our bodies), they rush in very quickly causing that quick fix of energy we get when eating a chocolate bar.

However this spike in blood sugar stimulates insulin production in order to remove excess sugar from the blood…and so we get the drop after the hit. We then crave more fuel and the downward spiral begins. In simple terms, this will lead to body fat effectively being locked in, as this constant secretion of insulin hinders the production of another hormone (glucagon) which is required to release stored body fat for burning as energy.

Reduce fatigue and increase metabolismReduce fatigue and increase metabolism

Complex carbs on the other hand are our body’s preferred source of energy. These are broken down into glucose molecules and either burned as fuel, or stored as glycogen giving us the energy stores to function at our best. This is their job by nature and removing them from our diet entirely can leave us open to fatigue and our metabolism may suffer.

So the myth is busted: not all carbs are bad! And excluding all carbs will not necessarily lead to weight loss as this approach affects energy, metabolism, and even sleep. Just keep your carbs complex and unprocessed; fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains (remember that low GI thing?) and nuts are a perfect complex carb source and also provide fibre which not only aids digestion, but also keeps us fuller longer.

As for that mince pie…we’ll let that one go this time, but only because it’s the season of goodwill!

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