We are heading into peak ‘dieting’ season and many of the current diets focus on limiting carbohydrates. Is it really necessary to limit carbohydrates and are they truly the number 1 enemy when it comes to weight loss?!
Also check out The truth about low carb low fat diets
The carbohydrate group includes starches and sugars, such as rice, wheat and sugar. Other foods such as fruits, dairy products beans and lentils also contain a certain amount of carbohydrate, even if they are not directly included in this group. A very low carbohydrate diet is usually based around lean animal proteins and very low carbohydrate vegetables.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
So, should carbohydrates be avoided? Yes and no! Certain refined carbohydrates (sugar and heavily processed grains) will spike our blood sugar levels if eaten in excessive quantities. The body responds to this by rapidly shuttling off the excessive sugars (glucose) into our cells where they are stored for future use (think ‘fat stores’)!
In the rush to demonise carbohydrates though, we sometimes forget that healthy eating is all about balance. We should ideally be eating a wide variety of foods across all the different food groups. Carbohydrates do provide us with a ready supply of energy and the unrefined carbohydrates in particular contain good levels of B vitamins (needed for energy production), magnesium and zinc. They are a source of fibre which helps to slow down the rate of digestion and keep us feeling full. Any other benefits? Unrefined carbohydrates contain significant levels of antioxidants. They also make us feel good as the consumption of carbohydrates indirectly helps to promote the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps to optimise our mood.
Can carbohydrates be included as part of a healthy diet? Yes! As for tricks of the trade from the nutrition experts at Watch Fit? ‘Avoid excessive added sugars, always select unrefined starchy carbohydrates consumed in moderate amounts and always, always balance your carbohydrates with a protein food’
Also check out Losing fat while eating carbs
This is a list of our top ten ‘good carbs’ which tick all the boxes from both a health and weight loss perspective
A rich source of beta carotene ( a form of Vitamin A) which is necessary for vision and eye health and they contain more fibre than white potatoes which gives them a lower glycaemic index. Our favourite way of serving them? Mashed, with grilled chicken and lashings of spinach!
One of the few snack foods which is low in calories (as long as it is not smothered in fat!) . It also contains surprisingly high levels of polyphenols, antioxidants which help to keep you healthy. Buy the kernels and make your own savoury popcorn by drizzling with a small amount of coconut oil and sprinkling over some cumin and turmeric.
Much loved by the Incas and the only grain which contains a full complement of protein. The protein content helps to balance blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar peaks. It also contains some omega 3, a fatty acid which is essential for health. Try mixing cooked quinoa with prawns, raw vegetables and fresh herbs for a tasty and balanced meal.
High in fibre and low in fat! A perfect food if you are watching your weight. Try mixing cooked lentils with roasted vegetables and goat’s cheese for a healthy and delicious supper.
Higher in fibre than white rice and studies link the consumption of whole grains such as brown rice as being helpful for weight control, because of their fibre content. The oil found in unrefined rice is linked with lowering cholesterol.
We love porridge! Oats are a rich source of a soluble fibre (beta glucan) which helps support weight control by providing a sensation of fullness and reducing the appetite.
A poached egg on rye bread with grilled tomatoes is a great way to start the day. Rye contains lignans, phytochemicals which help to protect against heart disease and also optimise our blood sugar levels.
A rich source of calcium and higher in protein and fat than normal yoghurt. A recent study found that eating ‘full fat’ dairy products was helpful for weight management, possibly because the fat helps us feel more sated and less likely to reach for a sweet snack afterwards.
Possibly our favourite fruit. Berries are naturally low in sugar and therefore they are lower in calories than other fruits. Try greek yoghurt with fresh berries and chopped nuts as a super healthy dessert.
Dried fruit is a great way of satisfying a sweet craving. They are a concentrated source of nutrients and a little goes a long way. Do make sure they are not coated in sugar and mix with nuts to provide a balanced snack. Our favourite mix? Apricots and cranberries with almonds and pumpkin seeds – a perfect post workout snack!