We often hear so much about how bad carbs are, don’t we? Carbs are the enemy! Low-carb diets are the go! Carbs are responsible for the world-wide obesity epidemic! Well, it’s time we did some myth-busting and handed the balanced truth about carbs to you on a plate (pun intended 🙂 ).
Firstly, a little refresher about carbohydrates (carbs as they are commonly referred to). Carbs are an essential macronutrient, along with protein and fat. They are essential to our survival and are found in highly nutritious foods such as fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, beans, breads and cereals. But, they are also found in highly processed foods in the form of simple sugars. These are carbs with little nutritional value such as cakes, pastries, soft drinks, fruit-juices and candy.
1. The myth about carbs: Carbs make you fat – BUSTED!
This little myth about carbs tops our list because it is the biggest misconception. Jaclyn Reutens, Active8me dietician, explains “Eaten in the right quantities and as a part of a balanced diet, carbohydrates will not lead to weight gain, it actually leads to weight loss.” You need an adequate supply of carbohydrates to fuel your daily activities. The real issue lies with the QUANTITY of carbs you consume. In fact, this rings true for any food group. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to you storing fat and gaining weight.
Jaclyn points out, “The common problem we face is our meals have carbohydrates as the staple and base of the meal”. So, to overcome this myth about carbs and avoid gaining weight, learning both the proportion of carbs you should be eating and managing your portion size is essential. Did you know carbs should make up only about 25% of your plate. It is why we have an interactive healthy plate in the Active8me app – to help you manage your portions and make better eating decisions.
2. The myth about carbs: All carbs were created equal – BUSTED!
With the rise of the multi-billion-dollar diet industry, the introduction of calorie counting has become common place. Controlling calories and being aware of where your energy needs come from is part of being health conscious. However, not all carbs were created equal when it comes to calories. 300 calories of vegetables are not the same as 300 calories of cake. Using calories alone to determine your meal choice can be a trap. Remember to consider the nutrients you will be consuming as well as the calorie content.
Calories are just a helpful guide, BUT you must also consider the quality of the carbs you are eating. Again, you can have a chocolate mars bar (230 calories) or you could have Chilli Tuna & Avocado Pasta Salad from the Active8me app. You get the idea…not all carbs are equal in nutritional value.
The myth about carbs being equal doesn’t end there. Natural and whole food sources of carbs can provide you with fibre in your diet. High fibre foods tend to take more work for your system to digest, therefore using energy as you consume. Jaclyn advocates including fibre in your snack foods to increase satiety (feeling full), for example “try celery, carrot and cucumber sticks dipped in low fat cream cheese or salsa! Salsa has zero fat content and that tangy taste perks up your tastebuds”. The takeaway message here is eat more natural, wholefood carbs and less processed or refined carbs!
3. The myth about carbs: Bread and pasta (gluten) is bad for you – BUSTED!
The trendy rise of everything being ‘gluten-free’ is responsible for the important complex carbohydrates of wholegrain bread and pasta becoming shunned. Only consuming highly processed white bread that is definitely NOT healthy, but wholegrain versions of bread and pasta can serve as a good staple in your diet. Unless you are specifically diagnosed with a condition that requires you to cut gluten from your diet, such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance, then it serves no purpose to abstain from it.
A gluten-free diet is not a guarantee for weight loss as you end up replacing the gluten with other high calorie substitutes, usually at a higher cost too! So don’t be sucked in by hype – carbs in the form of gluten rich whole grain breads and pastas are not the enemy.
4. The myth about carbs: They make you gassy and bloated – BUSTED!
Some carbs, such as onions, cauliflower, cabbage, lentils and beans are notorious for causing bloating, due to the gas they produce when broken down in the gut. However, if you are eating reasonable portions and a mix of carbohydrates, bloating should NOT be a regular occurrence. Think for a moment about these questions. Are you having a consistent pattern of meals? Chewing your food slowly? Eating until you’re satisfied, as opposed to completely ‘stuffed’? If you answered ‘no’, then these factors may contribute to bloating more than carbs themselves.
If you are often experiencing gas or bloating there could be more sinister issues at play, like food intolerances, allergies or medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. There are also other culprits like artificial sweeteners, and sugar-free substitutes in drinks and food bars that may be contributing to that awful bloated feeling. A dose of honesty about the quantity and quality of carbs you are consuming may bring you to the realisation that you can’t blame wholefood carbs for your bloating!
5. The myth about carbs: Low carb diets are healthier for you – BUSTED!
Ask anyone the easiest way to drop a few kilos and the most common answer will be ‘cut the carbs’. There is no question that if you cut carbs from your diet, you will lose weight. It sounds like a simple formula for losing weight, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is a lot more complex for your metabolism. Apart from slowing your metabolism, increasing stress hormones and decreasing your muscle building hormones this myth about carbs can leave you feeling sluggish, cranky and find it hard to focus!
Now, if you are talking about a low processed carb diet, then that is a different matter. We will give you resounding support and pat you on the back. However, cutting out whole or minimally processed carbs can lead to deficiencies of essential nutrients and actually lead to weight gain!
To be absolutely clear about this ‘low-carb’ trend, it is NOT healthier for you nor sustainable for long term health. The healthiest diet is a balanced diet. This means you have appropriate proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats with minimally processed foods. Balanced clean eating. Simple. Not sure where to start with this? Sign up to Active8me to have your nutritionally balanced, dietician approved meals (complete with recipes) at your fingertips whenever you need them!