There’s a lot of confusion about carbs. The leading food bodies are telling us to eat more carbs…Yet there seems to be an increasing body of compelling evidence showing that carbs may be a leading cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other lifestyle illnesses. It’s all really confusing and hard to know what to believe. To answer some common questions like – Are they healthy or unhealthy? Do they make us fat? – and to clear up any confusion lets dive deeper and get clear about carbs.
It’s about a 5 minute read, here’s a brief outline.
- What are Carbs?
- Are they Healthy or Unhealthy?
- Do Carbs Make Us Fat?
- Healthy Carbs
- Unhealthy Carbs
- Why We Need to Avoid Unhealthy Carbs Like the Plague
- In a Nutshell
- The Harsh Truth
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What Are Carbs?
Carbs. is short for Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are one of the 3 food macronutrients.
Macronutrients are nutrients the body needs in large quantities for energy.
We also have micronutrients, which are nutrients the body needs but in smaller quantities. (vitamins, minerals…)
The other 2 macronutrients are Fat and Protein. Most food is made up of a mixture of these 3 macronutrients in varying quantities.
When we talk about a particular food being ‘carb’ its because it is high in carbohydrates rather than being exclusively carbohydrate.
Below we can see an example of this in raw oats. Oats are thought of as a carb but as you can see they also have fat and protein in them, along with many micronutrients which aren’t listed here.
Nutritional profile of 100 grams of raw oats, (taken from Healthline.com)
- Calories: 389
- Water: 8%
- Protein: 16.9 grams
- Carbs: 66.3 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Fat: 6.9 grams
There are 3 types of Carbohydrate in Food.
- Sugars (provide energy)
- Starches (provide energy)
- Dietary Fibres (mainly helps with digestive health)
Are Carbs Healthy or Unhealthy?
To answer most of the questions and clear up the confusion about Carbs. there is just one important thing to learn.
Some Carbs are healthy, Some are ok in moderation and Some Carbs are unhealthy, VERY UNHEALTHY.
Healthy carbs = Carbs that are whole, unrefined, REAL foods.
Unhealthy Carbs = Carbs that are refined, processed foods.
Healthy carbs are beneficial to the body, providing us with the required energy and dietary fibre. They help prevent illness and help us live happy and healthy lives.
Unhealthy Carbs do the opposite. Although they do still provide us with energy it is not in good form and comes with grave health consequences. I can’t think of any unhealthy carbs that provide us with dietary fibre.
Eating unhealthy, refined carbs has been linked with many lifestyle diseases including a higher risk of poor heart health, high blood sugar, insulin resistance and obesity.
Do Carbs Make us Fat
Again it depends on What carbs we are eating.
Wholefood carbs do not make us fat.
Refined food carbs will make us fat, for a variety of reasons we will look at further down.
I have additional interesting point to make when considering Do carbs make us fat?
NOT ALL CALORIES ARE EQUAL.
Your body uses energy just to digest the food you eat.
That means some of the calories are ‘free’!!!
So a percentage of the calories you are eating are used up just in the process of eating and digesting it and …
…this percentage varies with each macronutrient.
Have a look:🤓
- Protein. – 20-30% of the calories are used up in digestion.
- Carbs – 5-10% of the calories are used up in digestion.
- Fat – 0-3% of the calories are used up in digestion.
- 1000 calories of protein will give you approx. 700-800 calories.
- 1000 calories of carbohydrate will give you approx. 900-950 calories.
- 1000 calories of fat will give you 970-1000 calories.
I’m just saying!!!🤓
Clearly, for the above reason (and others), eating quality protein is a great choice to make when trying to loose weight…and ‘unrefined’ carbs come in second…
…Before you rush off and stop eating fat, hold up!!!. Just because fat gives the most calories doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it.
Quality fat is essential for us and there are other factors about it which makes it great for weight loss.
What I am saying is that when someone tells you all calories are equal and its a simple matter of calories in and calories out that’s not true.
What you eat matters!
- Starchy vegetables, (potatoes, sweet potatoes, pulses, peas, beans etc)
- Whole oats
- Brown rice, whole quinoa and other whole grains
- Whole nuts and seeds (relatively low in carb but good fibre content)
These are all excellent healthy carb choices that will contribute to a healthy body and help prevent disease. The soluble dietary fibre in these types of carb helps with weight control and a healthy heart and is thought to contribute to a healthy gut.
There is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that a healthy gut = a healthy body. Full Stop. Click here to find out more about the importance of a healthy gut to our overall health.
Personally, I go very easy on the starchy veg, whole oats and grains. Use moderate portions and try to eat the whole item i.e. eat the skin with the potato. The amounts of this type of carb individuals can tolerate without gaining weight varies from person to person, you would have to play about to see what suits you personally.
- Wholemeal flours
- Wholemeal pastas
- Homemade wholemeal breads and flat breads.
Grains – Please make sure that any grain you consume is a WHOLEgrain. This means that it should contain all 3 parts of the grain: The Following is taken from a Healthline article click here to read more.
Without these 3 parts present the grain is simply a refined processed food which causes havoc in our body. (more below)
Personally, I treat bread and pasta as an occasional ‘treat’. It’s very hard to find anything in the shops that comes up to standard. It’s a good idea to make them yourself and buy the very best WHOLE flour you can find. (click here for a list in of UK Farms supplying quality milled flours)
Here’s a list of common unhealthy carbs.
- Heavily processed foods.
- Junk food.
- White rice.
- White pasta.
- Flour and products made from them.
- Your average loaf of bread and bread products.
- Cakes and cookies.
- Buns and pastries.
- ice cream
- Chips, French fries, crisps, savoury snacks.
- Sweets and regular chocolate. (click here for my post on the health benefits of REAL chocolate)
- Sugar (click here for my blog post Is sugar Bad For You)
- Processed sugary drinks and fruit juices.
- Anything with sugar added. (check the label)
Why We Need To Avoid Unhealthy Carbs Like the Plague
The first problem with these is the processing – the added sugar, the chemicals and addictive substances that go into them. They are a Frankenstein concoction that the body does not recognise as food. Mainly because it is NOT FOOD. To read more about this Click here for my post on processed food.
The sugar added to them is a huge problem. You may be shocked at how much sugar is added to your slice of bread or ready made meal. Even meat products have sugar added to them. Processed sugar is the worst, unhealthiest carb. Click here for my recent blog post Is sugar bad for you?
But even without the added sugar and other additives they are extremely unhealthy!!!
These foods – refined grains – the white flour and all its many products, the white rice, the white pasta, the noodles, the bread…stripped of all their natural fibre (and nutrition)…
…they have the same reaction in our bodies as if they were sugar.
You may as well be eating sugar!!!
These types of refined carbs hit our bloodstream alarmingly fast causing the same sugar and insulin spikes as if you were eating straight up processed sugar. They also cause exactly the same associated negative health consequences.
Because we need the fibre…
… in the whole food item to slow down the sugar and starch carbohydrates (which turn into a form of sugar) as it enters our system.
When the fibre is present the whole digestion process is slowed down thereby avoiding the sugar and insulin spikes and all the problems that go with them.
In a Nutshell – Avoid Refined Grain Carbs Because:-
- They cause blood sugar and insulin spikes because they’ve had the natural fibre removed. This plays havoc with our body, causing us many problems including weight gain and ultimately type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease.
- They’re mainly empty calories (devoid of nutrition) since they’ve had all the nutrients stripped out. (because the parts of the grain with the most nutrition are removed during the processing).
- They are very fattening. (The feeling of ‘full’ is fleeting because of rapid digestion thereby causing overeating… The insulin spikes, insulin is the main fat storing hormone… Your body crying out for ‘real’ food resulting in overeating)
- They are very low in fibre. Fibre is essential for a healthy working body and fighting off disease. Remember – a healthy gut=a healthy body.
Cutting out the cakes and buns and all the things you know contain the sugar, yes that’s great!… But you have to cut out the white bread, white rice, white pasta and noodles as well, because eating these is just like eating straight sugar with the same negative health affects… And they have all the chemical nasties of processed food too.
This type of food is cheap and easy, and I know it’s many peoples comfort food. It may be hard to give up, But you just have to…
The Harsh Truth
- If you don’t want to be fat don’t eat unhealthy carbs.
- If you want glowing, healthy skin don’t eat unhealthy carbs.
- If you want to feel healthy and vibrant don’t eat unhealthy carbs.
- If you want to have energy the whole day long don’t eat unhealthy carbs.
- If you want to give yourself the best chance of avoiding type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle illnesses, DONT EAT UNHEALTHY CARBS.
Note: Of course people who have diabetes or are gluten intolerant and other similiar conditions will have their own special rules regarding carbohydrate intake.
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