With so many mixed messages on carbs it’s understandable that some people have chosen to remove them completely from their diet while others are just straight up nervous of carbs and hold them as the cause of their weight issues.
Carbs have been in our diet for thousands of years – originally only available in natural, unrefined forms such as vegetables, fruits and grains. In the last 50 years access has increased considerably with the development of cereals, breads, crackers, cakes, biscuits, snacks, dried fruits, sugars and sweet drinks. The processing of these carbs provides a longer shelf life and offers unlimited access to them, which we have now come to accept as normal!
The fuel forms that occur naturally in carbohydrates are starches and sugars. The human body can rapidly break down various forms of starches and sugars and this is the reason carbohydrates are often referred to as ‘quick energy’ foods. It’s interesting that carbohydrates and proteins are similar in kilojoule count – a gram of each provides 16 – 17 kilojoules. However because of the fat content in animal proteins 100g of meat or chicken is in fact double the kilojoule content of 100g of potato, rice, pasta or bread. Yes – the densest kilojoule food on your plate is your protein, and if you remove the carbohydrate it is so easy for the protein to increase in size, resulting in a higher kilojoule meal.
Due to their abundant availability and cheapness carbohydrates are easy to overeat. An extra toast slice of grain bread and ½ cup cooked brown rice per day will put 12 kgs on you over 12 months. Also many refined carbohydrate products now have added fats and oils to increase flavour, whereas in their natural forms, they are low in fats.
Carbohydrates are an excellent source of fibre which is of importance in keeping good gut health, and in reducing lipid and glucose levels related to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. This fibre is not provided elsewhere in our diet. In terms of weight management, fibre helps us to feel more satisfied plus the physical action of chewing fibre keeps us feeling fuller for longer.
We are dependent on carbohydrates for various minerals and vitamins especially the B vitamin complex.
So enjoy your carbohydrates for the energy, the fibre, the vitamins and minerals they provide – just be mindful of the portions!