Feel guilty about eating carbs? They’re often viewed as a diet wrecker – an even bigger enemy than fat. But before you completely ditch them, here are 5 science-backed reasons why couldn’t survive without them.
Not all carbs are created equal
In the past, carbohydrates were commonly classified as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’, however nutritionists are now finding it more helpful to classify carbohydrates as nutrient-dense or nutrient-poor.
These types of carbs contain traces of other beneficial nutrients including protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants in addition to carbohydrates. Think pulses, legumes, wholegrains (rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa), fruit, some starchy vegetables (sweet potato, corn) and dairy-based foods (yoghurt).
These contain carbohydrate but from refined sources, such as added sugar, refined starch and added fats, and with minimal or no other nutrients. Common examples include white potatoes, white bread, soft drink, banana bread, energy drinks, pastries, chips (hot and crisps) and chocolate.
Here’s why you should eat carbs (the nutrient-dense type).
1. BRAIN POWER
This one is huge. The brain is a fairly picky eater, demanding a constant supply of glucose, and you get glucose mainly from carbs. When your blood sugar levels dip too low, it can hamper your ability to think, concentrate, and remember stuff because brain cells are being depleted of its preferred source of fuel.
2. BANISH BLOAT
You may find after eating a bowl of pasta or toast for brekkie leaves you feeling a little puffy. That’s because every carbohydrate that your body stores attracts three times as much water, which may cause water retention. This doesn’t mean you ditch carbs entirely. Just cut back on the serving size and include protein to it. For example, eat grilled chicken or salmon along with the pasta. Protein is more satisfying, so you’ll still feel full even though you’re cutting back on starchy foods. Better still, including a serving of nutrient-dense carbs with each meal or snack will ensure you’re reaching your daily fibre quota. Getting enough fibre helps keep your bowel movements regular. That means you’re less likely to feel puffy because your body will eliminate waste more efficiently.
3. GET HAPPY
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about a type of amino acid called tryptophan, which helps produce the happy hormone serotonin in your brain. Without enough tryptophan—and therefore serotonin—you’re more likely to be depressed or in a foul mood. Choosing low GI, nutrient -dense carbs on a daily basis is important to help regulate blood sugar levels which in turn help regulate energy levels and ultimately your mood.
4. BOOST PERFORMANCE
Carbohydrates, fat, and to some extent protein all provide energy, but exercising muscles rely heavily on carbohydrates as their number one fuel source. Going low-carb can deplete muscle glycogen stores, which can result in an early onset of fatigue, which means you conk out a lot quicker during your HIIT class.
5. FIGHT FLAB
The common misconception that “carbs make you fat” is only true if you eat large quantities, but so could too much of any food, including protein, fats and alcohol. In fact, including nutrient-dense carbs is key to getting and staying slim. How? First, they act as powerful appetite suppressant so you feel fuller quicker and eat (and crave) less. Secondly, they don’t spike insulin levels, making it easier to burn fat.