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What are carbs and should you be avoiding them?

Low-carb diets were one of the top 3 dieting trends of 2023! 1https://www.statista.com/forecasts/997894/diets-and-nutrition-in-the-uk Why? The biggest driver for low-carbohydrate diets is the belief that cutting out “carbs” will lead to weight loss.  But not all carbohydrates are created equal and we’re here to break it down for you.

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients (along with protein and fat) that your body needs to thrive.  They should play a crucial part in your well-rounded eating plan and can provide your body with the energy needed for everyday activities.

But as with everything, moderation is key and it’s the quality and quantity that really matter. The terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” are often used to distinguish between the nutritional quality of different carbohydrate sources. These terms are somewhat simplistic and the context within which you consume different types of carbohydrates matters – we prefer the terms “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates. It is important to include a balance of complex carbohydrates in your diet and daily intake varies based on multiple factors including age, sex, activity level and overall health.

Simple Vs complex carbs

Simple “bad” carbohydrates:

  • Found in highly processed foods and drinks
  • Are quickly and easily digested
  • Can cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar levels2https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
  • Typically lower in nutritional value as processing strips natural fibre and nutrients
  • Examples include chocolate bars, sweets, white bread and sugary drinks
  • Often consumed by athletes to support/boost sporting performance due to the quick release of energy

Complex “good” carbohydrates:

  • Found in whole, unprocessed foods
  • Contain essential nutrients and fibre
  • Take longer to breakdown and provide your body with a more sustained and slower release of energy3https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/
  • Examples include whole grains (e.g., oats, quinoa), vegetables and legumes

Think of your body as a fireplace and carbohydrates are the fuel. Simple carbohydrates are like newspaper – quick burning, while complex carbohydrates are like logs – slow burners, they release heat (energy) gradually over time.

Should you avoid simple carbs?

While we do not recommend consuming simple, highly processed carbohydrates as part of a balanced, healthy diet, you need not eliminate them altogether.  Complex carbs are naturally more nutritious but we very much advocate the 80/20 rule at Chuckling Goat – eat well for your health 80% of the time, have a little bit of what you enjoy 20% of the time, whether that’s a chocolate bar, ice cream or slice of cake 😋

Where does fibre fit in?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that cannot be fully digested by your body.  Fibre is crucial for digestive health and stool motility, it helps regulate your blood sugar and therefore energy levels, and supports weight management by contributing to a feeling of fullness.

If you found this article interesting, check out Ultra-processed foods, the ones to watch! and Everything you need to know about fibre (including a sample meal plan!)

Feel free to get in touch with our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays, to have your questions answered!

References

Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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