February 19, 2018
What carbs should I be eating?
The Atkins Diet introduced many of us to the idea that carbohydrates = bad. However, while this method of losing weight has become less popular over the years, people seem not to have forgiven carbs, believing them to be the main cause of weight gain and cutting them out wherever possible.
As maligned as they are, carbohydrates as a whole are not bad for you; quite the opposite. They are one of the three nutritional building blocks alongside protein and fat, and it’s recommended that they make up around half to two-thirds of your diet. However, not all carbs are created equal.
There are certain types of carbohydrate you can definitely benefit from cutting out of your diet completely, and others that you should probably be eating more of. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry! We’re going to take you through the carbs you should be eating, as well as those you can safely avoid.
What carbs are good for me?
There are loads of different ways of splitting carbohydrates into different categories, but for the moment let’s just focus on three: sugars, starches and fibre. Ideally, most of the carbs you eat should contain much more of the latter two, with as little sugar as possible.
Eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates is the best way to fuel your body. They contain plenty of energy that is released steadily over a long period of time, keeping you on your toes and at peak performance throughout the day.
Starches can be found in potatoes, as well as the foods most commonly thought of as the carbohydrate component of a meal: bread, rice and pasta. However, these are most commonly found in their ‘white’ or refined variants, which are not as good for you as ‘brown’, wholemeal or wholewheat options. Why? Because of fibre.
This nutrient can’t actually be absorbed by the body. However, the bacteria in your intestines can make use of it, and it aids greatly with digestion. Foods high in fibre generally release their energy more steadily, avoiding spikes in blood sugar, and can help lose weight.
Fruit and vegetables are good choices as well. They contain a good mix of starches and fibre, with some sugar, and are packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. A third of your diet each day should ideally be made up of these.
What carbs should I avoid?
So we’ve talked about starch and fibre, but there’s a third nutrient to bear in mind: sugar. If you’re looking to reduce your intake of something, this is probably the best option.
The problem with sugar is that it provides a very short energy spike, rather than releasing its fuel steadily over the day. If you feel drained a short time after eating something sweet, this is why. Sugars are high in calories as well, and the ones which can’t be burned for energy will end up getting stored as fat.
You probably already know not to binge on chocolates and cupcakes, but this nutrient has more insidious ways of sneaking into our diet than that. For example, while fruit juice might seem like a healthy drink, it actually contains all of the sugar of regular fruit with very little fibre or starch to counter it.
Speaking of drinks, alcohol can be a key culprit when it comes to weight gain. Sweet cocktails, cider, beer and sugary mixers all contain carbohydrates that you should avoid. The best option is to stick to a spirit and a zero-calorie mixer, but cutting out alcohol altogether can do wonders for your health.
As mentioned above, refined starches are also worth avoiding, at least in large amounts. You will get more health benefits from switching to wholegrain options, and most people find they also have more flavour to them.
If you can cut down on your sugar intake and switch out your refined starches, you will have gone a long way towards making sure you’re eating the right carbohydrates. This can make a significant difference to your weight loss and overall health, so it is definitely worth giving a try.