Carbs regularly receive bad press, with people often cutting them from their diets in a bid to lose weight. However, carbs are actually are an important part of your diet as they provide the body with energy, needed to generally function and to repair itself. Therefore, they should make up approximately 55/60% of your total daily calories.
So we know that carbs are an important part of a healthy diet but there is also much discussion regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs. So how do you know which is which? The answer is both simple – and complex.
Simple carbs (also known as ‘bad’) and complex carbs (known as ‘good’) are known as such due to their chemical makeup as well as the way that the body processes them.
Simple sugars are made up of easy to digest basic sugars. This means that they are high in sugar (calories) but low in fibre and nutritional content.
Examples of this type of carb are:
Biscuits and sweets
White rice, white pasta and white bread
The energy from these types of foods cannot be stored and so if high quantities are consumed, it can cause a spike in blood sugar levels followed by a crash. This will leave people feeling tired, sluggish and lightheaded. Continued over consumption of these foods will lead to weight gain.
Consumption of these foods is perfectly fine for your body on occasion. However, they should not be your main source of carbs.
These types of carbs are made up of longer lines of sugars, taking the body longer to process them. Therefore, energy is provided in a lower amount at a more consistent rate – which will keep you going during the day, rather than experiencing spikes and crashes as with simple carbs. Research has shown that this consistence in blood sugar levels allows people to function and concentrate better.
Energy from this type of carb can be stored by the body. Therefore, this maintenance will curb cravings as the body can meet its own energy needs, rather than indicating that it needs sugar.
Examples of complex carbs are:
Nuts & seeds
Beans & lentils
Picking these types of carbs is a simple way to make your diet more healthy without having to make drastic changes which you won’t be able to stick to long term.
For example, eating brown rice instead of white will provide your body with more nutrients, fewer calories as well as keeping you fuller for longer so you’ll be less likely to snack afterwards.
Other easy to make substitutions include swapping coffee for hot water with lemon or herbal teas, biscuits and sweets for fruit and veg, and white grains for wholegrains (such as bread and pasta).
By Helen Noakes