Carbohydrate is now the current villain amongst the food groups. The carbohydrate debate has, quite unbelievably, been raging for longer than Brexit.
Following on from the low fat revolution of the 1980’s and 90’s most people increased their carbohydrate intake. I tried many low fat diets of that era and watched people close to me doing the same. The increase in carbohydrate intake was generally in favour of sugar or sweetener laden, low fat foods and refined carbohydrates. Imagine my glee, before I started educating myself on nutrition, that I was ‘allowed’ to eat those big pink or white fluffy pillows that are Princess marshmallows because they are fat free……..if only I knew then what I know now!!
The problem with the carbohydrate debate is that all carbohydrates are not created equal. In extremely simplified terms there are two different types of carbohydrate, simple carbohydrates and complex or starchy carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream quite quickly. All types of refined sugar, sweets and cakes, crisps and other highly processed food fall into this category. They contain few, if any, vitamins and minerals and are devoid of fibre. These simple carbohydrates can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and long term intake of these foods can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Complex carbohydrates are absorbed much slower because they contain fibre, they are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Wholegrains, oats, pulses and vegetables are all quality examples of complex carbohydrates.
Recent research commissioned by the World Health Organisation showed strong evidence that eating a diet relatively high in fibre can help protect against diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Whilst this research is backed by strong evidence it is always important to bear in mind that if you weren’t part of the study group you may want to dig a little deeper. The bottom line is we are all individuals and one size does not fit all, this applies to any way of eating or diet.
As I have already said all carbohydrates are not created equal and you need to choose them wisely. Sugary processed foods and refined carbohydrates should be limited as they offer little in terms of nutrition. Instead increase fibre-rich foods such as vegetables, whole grains and pulses……………….just make sure it’s a gradual increase, you don’t want to be responsible for the only wind on a still Spring day.
Your health is your wealth.