The poor old carbohydrate molecule has had a lot of bad press in the last few years. Many see all carbs as dietary evil, but that isn’t the whole story. The important thing is the difference between the two types of carb, which could be called friendly and less-friendly.
As the name implies, carbohydrate is a chemical compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Here is more detail on the science of carbohydrates.
These are the complex carbs, which are often found in foods that are also rich in dietary fibre. These complex molecules take longer for the body to break down, so we feel fuller for longer and are less likely to start snacking. Good carbs come from vegetables (not just potatoes), rice, wholegrain cereals and legumes.
While no food is really ‘bad’ in itself, there are definitely some carbs that need caution. These are the simple carbs, which are variants of basic sugar and are broken down quickly by the body. As you have probably guessed, that means cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate! These all need to be regarded as treats rather than essential foods. Yes, even those ‘healthy’ cereal bars!
Starting with the saliva in the mouth and continuing through the gut, our bodies extract the glucose from carbs and move it into the bloodstream. From there, the organs of the body take it as energy. Any not needed immediately is stored in the liver as glycogen. When this ‘reservoir’ is full, the excess is stored in the same way as any other excess calories – as body fat.
Carbs are a good source of the calories we need, and the fibre in starchy foods gives our bowels the ‘bulk’ they need to work on. The glucose from carbs is also essential for the brain.
All diets need to be balanced, and too much of even the good carbs can result in weight gain. Also remember that fruits contain simple sugars as well as their vitamin and mineral benefits.
The message? Eat in the right portions, try to minimise the processing of your food and eat a good mixed diet.
Want to learn how to manage your carbohydrate needs? Start calculating your macros for a perfectly balanced plate.
I'm with you Emma, I love carbs. Luckily wholegrain carbs are much easier to get hold of now so our staples are wholegrain pasta and rice. I feel much more healthy eating those than the white processed ones. In fact we couldn't survive as a family without carbs. We even do baking with wholegrain flour.
I couldn't live happily without carbs. I also believe I would struggle to maintain a healthy weight without eating carbs. I am very slim and tall and I would get too skinny. Long live carbs!! (wholegrain of course!!).
I'm just pleased to see the debunking of the 'carbs are evil' thing. When you look deeper into it, most of those peddling that theory are in fact saying 'eat less cake'. It is quite an important difference!
That's a great point Clare. Homemade bread is definitely less processed than commercial sliced bread, and wholemeal bread, oir sourdough could be definitely considered a 'good carb'. If you make in bulk and freeze it's really not that much hassle.
mankind has been processing bread for many centuries, as raw wheat isn't very tasty.. But there's processing and processing. I think most of the processing should be done in my kitchen, and I also aim to reduce packaging as that definitely equals less processed food.
Minimising the processing of foods is a good way to look at it. But remember that bread is still processed although wholewheat bread is closer to its original state than white.