EXPANDING WAISTLINE – ARE CARBS TO BLAME?
Carbs get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss.
People are quick to blame their expanding waistline on bread and pasta, but is this a fair assessment? The short answer is no. The long answer is that not all carbs are equal and to understand why, we need to talk about the three different types – sugar, starch, and fibre – and the role they play in our diet.
When we think of sugar we generally think of refined white sugar, found in confectionary and desserts which causes a spike in blood sugar levels. But there are plenty of foods that contain naturally occurring sugar. Fruit is the perfect example. It’s rich in sugary carbs, but who has ever heard of someone getting fat because of apples?
Other natural carb sources containing very small amounts of sugar are sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips. They give us a sustained source of energy that’s free from blood sugar spikes and crashes and they are natural foods.
Starchy foods play an important role in our diet because they keep us full. Feelings of hunger are the main reason we break from our diet. What’s more, hunger can cause us to lose sight of portion control because we feel like we need to quickly shovel in vast quantities of food. This can drive over-eating and even binging. Starchy carbs are found in potatoes, pasta, bread, cereals, grains, oats, and rice. These foods contain a moderate number of calories, so while they should be on your plate they shouldn’t make up more than a quarter of the meal.
Fibre is a type of indigestible carb. Because of this it makes us feel fuller for longer and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. It also performs a bulking function which, again, adds to feelings of satiety. And there’s the other well-known benefit – ‘getting things moving’. Apart from making us feel more comfortable, regular trips to the bathroom keep the digestion system healthy and allows for the proper absorption of nutrients. For these reasons, fibre is a dieter’s best friend!
Fibre can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
We’ve now discussed the three types of carbs. Each plays an important role in enjoying a balanced healthy life and can help us to reach our dieting goals; none will make you fat. A calorie surplus coming from any food group will! So why do carbs get a bad rap? When people say ‘carbs’ they’re generally referring to starchy processed foods like cakes, pastries, white pasta, and white bread. These processed foods are low in fibre, cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, and are usually combined with refined sugars and fats. They’re often high in calories too. And, to make things worse, they’re the types of foods that you could easily overeat as they fall into the category of high palatable foods. But, as unhealthy as they are, they’re not bad for you because they contain carbs. The bottom line is that you don’t need to exclude carbs from your diet to lose weight. Doing so might lead to lack of energy, dizziness and feelings of deprivation which can cause disordered eating patterns such as binge eating. Just remember to make smart food choices and practice portion control and you’ll be okay.