IN RECENT YEARS ONLINE NUTRITION TRENDS AND FAD DIETS HAVE OFTEN PORTRAYED CARBOHYDRATES AS THE BIG BAD WOLF THAT IS CERTAIN TO COMPLETELY RUIN ALL YOUR HEALTH & FITNESS HOPES AND DREAMS…
I’m here today to try to break through the over-hyped carb phobic nonsense and bring some real awareness to what carbs actually are, and to talk to you about how and why we should be including carbohydrates in our diets.
So let’s dive in a little deeper, obviously spinach and sugar aren’t the same thing; I doubt I’m blowing your mind with this revelation. But what about all the so-called ‘‘questionable carbs’’ in-between? I’m talking about foods like rice, pasta, bread, oats, potatoes, and fruit. I’m sure we have all seen those foods being negatively associated with health and weight-loss at one time or another.
There are many different ways you can categorize these ‘questionable carbs’, processed & natural, refined & wholegrain, sugar & starch, sweet & savory, you get the idea. When I hear the word ‘carbs’, personally I instantly think of foods like rice, oats, quinoa, roast veggies, fruit, and vegetables, since these are the foods that I most often include in my diet as my main source of carbohydrates. However some people hear the word ‘carbs’ and their mind goes straight to foods like cake, pizza, donuts, chips, lollies, pastry, bread etc. While these foods do contain relatively high amounts of carbohydrates, they also often contain equally high amounts of unhealthy fats and/or sodium, and they are generally also highly processed foods. In my opinion, it is grossly unfair to simply categorize all of these foods together simply as ‘carbs’, and attempt to remove them from your diet.
- How processed is this food? (i.e. wholegrain vs. refined)
- How many ingredients are in it?
- Is it high in nutrients and/or fiber?
- Does it contain high levels of saturated fat or sodium?
- Will it keep me satiated and feeling full until my next meal?
What about those pesky foods like rice and pasta?
These foods tend to cause a little more confusion since they sit more in the middle ground of ‘the health spectrum’. From a nutritional point of view, these foods are relatively neutral for our health. While yes they are more processed than other types of carbohydrates and don’t contain particularly high levels of nutrients, they also don’t contain high amounts of saturated fat or sodium etc. For me personally, I find rice and pasta to be extremely satiating foods that keep me full for a very long time, and fuel me well for exercise. For this reason I have no problem regularly including them in my diet, I just make sure to always pair them with other more nutrient-dense foods (such as veggies, proteins) to balance out the meal. If you are aiming to consume a ‘perfectly clean diet’ and get the maximum possible amount of nutrients in every single meal, then maybe rice and pasta aren’t for you. But if you do love rice or pasta (like me!), don’t feel like its ‘unhealthy’ and you have to cut it out. Just be aware that they do not contain so many nutrients on their own, and be sure to include them in a balanced meal.
One of the biggest problems I have with nutrition trends and advice these days is the focus on eating 100% clean 100% of the time.
If that’s easy and manageable for you then awesome, congrats! But for 99% of us (me included), eating perfectly clean every single meal is neither realistic nor actually beneficial when you consider the toll it takes on your mental health. I would simply encourage people to try to base the majority of their meals around those healthy carbohydrate sources like fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes etc., add a good source of protein and fats (I will talk more about these another time) and try not to stress about eating slightly ‘less healthy’ foods in moderate amounts. A donut or pizza here and there really isn’t the problem; it’s the types of food that we regularly eat every single day that will affect our long-term health and wellness.
SO TO SUM IT ALL UP;
Carbs do not automatically equal sugar, and are not the enemy.
Focus on improving the quality of carbs, not reducing the amount.
High carbohydrate foods are often also high in nutrients and fiber.
Majority of your daily energy intake should be good quality carbs.
Basically, carbs don’t always mean sugar, and they definitely don’t necessarily mean unhealthy. Stop trying to remove carbs from your diet and instead focus that energy on switching to healthier, less processed carbohydrates. Carbs are a great source of fuel and nutrition, so don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they are unhealthy or should be taken out of your diet. Learn how to choose the best carbohydrate sources for your individual lifestyle, relax and enjoy them!!!