Carbs have had a bad press over the last few years. The now infamous high protein / low carb diet popularised by Dr Robert Atkins way back in 1972, with renewed interest after the release of his second book in 2002, has been a significant catalyst for a myriad of low carb dieting trends. And whilst there may be some weight loss benefits when you alter the balance of carbs in your diet, many people have taken it too far, which could be having vast repercussions on their health.
Here’s some of the main reasons why you need to include this vital nutrient in your diet and why it can help you to lose weight too:
We need more carbs than fat or protein
The foundation of a healthy diet centres around three major macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat. The ideal balance depends on your age and activity level but should be something like this:
Carbohydrates: 45 – 65% of calories
Fat: 20 – 35% of calories
Protein: 10 – 35% of calories
Many people are surprised when they see that they need more carbs than fat or protein.
Fruits & vegetables contain carbohydrates
The word ‘carbohydrate’ immediately conjures up images of refined bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes, yet highly nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates too! It is now recommended that we should all be eating 7+ portions of fruits and vegetables daily to support optimum health and reduce risks of disease. Cutting out fruits and vegetables would be a disaster for your health.
Carbohydrates contain fibre & essential vitamins and minerals
Wholegrains such as oats, rye, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, spelt and millet are complex carbohydrates which are great sources of fibre and essential micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium and B vitamins. Many of these micronutrients are missing from Western diets, partly because they have been stripped from refined versions and also because people have started to cut out this essential food group from their diets.
Nutrient-dense carbohydrates can reduce your disease risk
Research has shown that regular intake of complex wholegrains such as oats and rye can reduce your risks of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with significantly better health outcomes too.
Eat the right carbs in the right balance
Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains are packed full of slow release carbohydrate and fibre and are slowly digested into your bloodstream. They can help you to feel fuller for longer and so help to support weight loss by supporting balanced energy and reduced food cravings. However, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, biscuits, cakes, sugary drinks and snacks are an absolute no-no for weight loss and these are the carbohydrate foods that have given the whole family a bad name. If you want to lose weight, cut out refined carbohydrates and replace them with complex carbohydrates instead. It is also perfectly ok to slightly alter the balance of macronutrients in your diet if you find this helps to support weight loss. Many people find that eating slightly more protein and slightly less complex carbohydrates can help to accelerate weight loss – experiment with this balance and see what works for you. So, whilst you should ditch white flour and refined sugar from your diet, it’s a mistake to try and cut out all carbohydrates completely.
The key to weight loss is eating the right carbs in the right balance:
• Include these carbs – fruits, vegetables, oats, rye, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, spelt and millet
• Cut out these carbs – white bread, white pasta, white rice, cakes, biscuits, sweets, added sugar, fruit cordial, fizzy drinks, alcohol and energy drinks (unless you’re an athlete of course!)