Why do we need carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Our body needs carbs, mainly for fuel, but it’s also our minds that benefit from a slice of toast or two. Deprivation not only causes our body to go into starvation mode, but our mind can start playing tricks on us too. Did you know your brain is entirely dependent on carbs for energy? Carbs play an important role in transporting tryptophan (key to creating serotonin, your happy hormone) to the brain, so they keep us smiling too.
What happens if we don’t eat enough carbohydrates?
Cutting out a whole food group (such as starchy foods) from your diet could put you at increased risk of a deficiency in certain nutrients like B vitamins, zinc and iron, leading to health problems further down the line. When we cut out carbs, we usually replace it with another food type. But higher fat sources of protein could increase your intake of saturated fat, which can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood – a risk factor for heart disease.
Good carbs, bad carbs- what’s the difference?
It’s not that carbohydrates in general are bad, but the type, quality and quantity of carbs in your diet that have an effect. In simplistic terms, carbs in their natural fibre-rich form are healthy and those foods that have been stripped of fibre- think, white bread, pastries, cookies, chips- are not. It’s the ‘good’ carbs you should load up on: vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
What’s the link between carbohydrates and our GI?
The glycaemic index (GI) tells us whether a food raises blood glucose levels quickly, moderately or slowly. This is an extremely useful tool, especially for diabetics. Different carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, and GI is a ranking of how quickly each carbohydrate-based food and drink makes blood glucose levels rise after eating them. The amount of carbs you eat has a bigger effect on blood glucose levels than GI alone. For example, pasta has a lower GI than a bunch of grapes, but pasta has more carbs than grapes, so if you eat similar amounts of either of these two foods, the pasta will have more of an impact on your blood glucose levels.
What role does carbohydrates play in exercise?
Carbohydrates, fat and protein all provide energy, but exercising muscles rely on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel. However, muscles have limited carbohydrates stores (glycogen) and they need to be topped up regularly to keep your energy up. A diet low in carbohydrates can lead to a less miles on your spinning bike and longer recovery time post-exercise.
Do carbohydrates lead to weight gain?
In fact, that second helping of sweet potato will benefit you more than another slice of cheddar. Carbohydrates contains less calories gram-for-gram than fat and so eating high-fibre starchy food is, contrary to belief, a good way to lose weight.
What’s the best time to eat carbs?
It’s presumed, especially for weight loss, you shouldn’t eat carbs past a certain time of the day. However, there is little scientific research that supports this. We feel fuller after a carb-heavy meal which isn’t ideal, especially before bedtime. If you suffer from bloating after a bowl of pasta or a jacket potato, steer clear of these trigger foods at night. It will take longer for your body to feel comfortable and go into rest mode.
Follow @girlswithgluten for a middle finger up to carb-phobes and their turmeric chai lattes and power green salads that dominate Instagram. This popular account (51K followers) features women the world over reassuring us that it’s ok to eat carbs. With images of celebrities sinking their teeth into burgers and wolfing down bowls of pasta, you’ll need little encouragement to up your carb intake.