Are you surrounded by carb confusion? Does your trainer say include them? But your friends say to cut them? There’s never been a more controversial time surrounding carbohydrate foods, healthy eating and sports performance. So let’s take you through my latest advice:
Why all the carb confusion?
Widespread carb caution is a result of a host of best-selling fad diet books over the decades that share a common theory: carbohydrate-rich foods, especially those with sugar, wreak havoc on your physical and mental wellbeing. Eating these foods forces your body to make fat with abandon and leaves you constantly hungry. Many of these diet books contain questionable science and have short-term health risks and negative side effects, ranging from marginal deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals to light-headedness and nausea.
In recent times we have also seen the emergence of popular diets that cut out whole food groups like grains, plus the low cab, high fat diet (LCHF) and widespread media on it’s use by certain sportspeople and coaches. This has added to the debate in sports nutrition and confused people even more!
To carb or not to carb
The body of scientific research still clearly shows that nutritious carbohydrate foods are the preferred fuel of the brain and working muscles and needed by active people. Many carbs – including fruits, starchy vegetables, wholegrains and dairy – provide essential nutrients and are vital to your health and well-being. For example, wholegrain foods contain all three components of the natural grain, including the outer layers rich in fibre and nutrients like B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Wholegrain breads and cereals are generally very high in fibre, low GI and bursting with potent phytochemicals like antioxidants and have shown to protect your health from lifestyle diseases.
The one thing we know to be true is that scientific research has proved time and time again that weight gain is due to consuming more kilojoules (energy) than you expend. The truth is that all foods contain kilojoules that count, not just carbs. So achieving a healthy weight should not be about only a carb focus.
The focus needs to be on choosing nutritious carbohydrates and balancing intakes with your level of physical activity. Marathon runners may need to load up on carbs, but most of us, for example, should stick to controlled portions like measuring 1 cup of cooked brown rice to enjoy with your Dineamic x meal. Choosing foods with a low GI or glycemic index can also help control insulin and blood glucose response and provide sustained energy and hunger busting. Find out more about GI at www.glycemicindex.com
By Karen Inge – Accredited Practising Dietitian