Written by Louise Payne (MSc, RNutr), Nutritionist at Spoon Guru, www.spoon.guru

Food and Drink on Female First

Food and Drink on Female First

Carbohydrates are the food group that’s often singled out in a negative way, showcasing that there is still much confusion around carbohydrates and their importance for our health. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients found in food, along with fat and protein; made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are in fact one of the most important nutrients for our bodies; so let’s bust some of the common myths!

There are good and bad carbs

Demonising food and labelling carbohydrates as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ isn’t helpful and only adds confusion. When it comes to carbohydrates, it is the type, quality and quantity in our diet that’s important. There are three types of carbohydrate: sugar, starch and fibre and the Eatwell Guide recommends consuming a variety of foods to ensure a balanced intake of carbohydrates. Recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data shows that in the UK we consume too much sugar and not enough fibre, therefore it’s recommended that we should be increasing our fibre intake to 30g a day (which is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer) and eating fewer foods and drinks that are high in added sugar.

Carbs make you fat

Any food can cause weight gain if you over consume, whether it is made up of carbohydrates, fat or protein. Carbohydrates actually contain fewer calories gram for gram than fat, however, so much of what we eat is made up of carbs as they are widely and readily available; therefore making them easy to eat in excess. You may hear that people who cut out carbs do lose weight, but it is important to remember they are cutting out an entire food group, which will reduce calorie intake in itself. Furthermore, the consumption of high calorie ingredients that you might combine with these foods, like butter and cheese, may also be reduced.

You shouldn’t eat carbs at night

There's little scientific evidence that one time is better than any other when it comes to eating carbohydrates, therefore if you hear that ‘you shouldn’t eat carbs after 6pm’, take it with a pinch of salt. It is recommended however that you base all your meals around starchy carbohydrate foods and try choosing higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties when you can – such as whole-wheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice – and try consuming fewer carbs before bed that will spike your blood sugar levels, like chocolate and biscuits.

You need to reduce your carb intake on ‘rest days’

When exercising, your body relies on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel. Your muscles have limited carbohydrate stores which need to be topped up regularly to keep your energy up. However, carbs are not just needed whilst exercising and all meals should be based around starchy foods. A diet low in carbohydrates means the body doesn’t have a readily available supply of glucose which can lead to fatigue, dizzy spells, poor concentration and lack of energy throughout the day. You may also be missing out on the recommended intake of fibre which can cause digestive issues and vitamins and minerals that are vital for good health.

Louise’s 10 Favourite Carbohydrates

  1. Sweet potato wedges - also high in vitamin C and vitamin A.
  2. Jacket potato - remember to eat the skin for added fibre!
  3. Cous cous - not only sugar and fat free but high in selenium which helps the immune system work properly.
  4. Sourdough bread - aids digestion and increases the availability of nutrients in our body.
  5. Quinoa - one of a few plant-based foods that contains all of the essential amino acids making it a complete protein.
  6. Brown rice - also contains essential B vitamins.
  7. Porridge Oats - oats are full of fibre and linked with reducing cholesterol.
  8. Banana - a great source of potassium!
  9. Buckwheat - very versatile and supplies important vitamins and minerals.
  10. Lentils - another plant-based food that is full of protein.

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