So what's the deal with carbohydrates?
People mention 'carbs' these days and it's almost as if someone has mentioned the boogeyman or some evil word that should never be mentioned - I see it so often that it's become almost a cult like phenomenon!
This is why I don't follow trends - call me old fashioned but food should be simple, nourishing, serve a purpose yet also taste delicious! And this includes the right kind of carbohydrates.
So let's briefly clear a few things up, to bring carbs (and the right kind) back into the light and into our lives again.
First of all carbohydrates are a macro nutrient, which along with proteins and fats, provide our bodies with functional energy and must be obtained from what we eat.
Remember it was not so long ago that we were told not to eat too many eggs as they were causing high cholesterol, to avoid all fats as they contributed to weight gain and cardiovascular disease, don't eat too much chocolate as it causes acne, artificial sweeteners are good for you - the list goes on! Fortunately though we have learnt (and much of this through science) that these were all just trends, myths and fallacies. Much like the 'Don't eat carbs trend of today'.
Let's take a closer look...
The problem most people have is that they tend to reach for the simple or refined carbohydrates. These are all too often hidden in processed foods making them much harder to distinguish and avoid.
Simple carbohydrates are metabolised and absorbed more quickly than complex carbohydrates making them a quick energy source, which is great for a short burst of energy if you are an athlete, but not so much for the average Joe sitting behind a computer all day.
They are distinguished by the one or two sugars contained within the food itself. For example; Monosaccharides - fructose from fruits, galactose from dairy and glucose from carbohydrate metabolism. Disaccaharides include sucrose from table sugar, lactose from dairy and maltose from starch digestion.
Then there are the 'empty calorie' sugars. These provide no nutritional benefit to the body and are a major cause of disease, inflammation and health problems. These nasties include soft drinks, lollies, syrups and highly processed goods - I won't even call them foods because they don't give us any health benefit.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are really important for brain function, memory, mood and energy.
Complex carbohydrates have many sugars (polysaccharides). These are often referred to as starchy foods and include peas, lentils, beans, chestnuts, potatoes, pumpkin, corn, parsnips, whole-grain breads and cereals.
Whilst refined carbohydrates cause a quick flood of sugar into the blood stream causing insulin spikes and metabolic disorders, complex carbohydrates are metabolised more slowly therefore releasing sustained energy and maintaining blood sugar homeostasis.
These types of carbohydrates benefit our digestive health as they contain fibre and nutrients essential to digestion, bowel movement and cholesterol function. They also help our body make tryptophan (from protein) more available while also producing serotonin which helps us with modulating our mood, sleep and social behaviour. This explains why you feel like a nap after a carbohydrate and protein filled meal.
So as you can see it is important to meet your complex carbohydrate needs. If your body does not have this moderated supply it will turn to protein as a source of fuel, thus in turn affecting muscle mass and placing extra burden on the kidneys.
Complex carbohydrates should make up a portion of the diet and remember trends come and go, but your health will (whether good or bad) always be with you so it's important to give your body the right nutrients 'tools' to help it do its' job well.
Enjoy food x