Carbs - Yes or No?!

Carbohydrate - the infamous terrifying food group.

Ok - what are carbs?

Carbohydrate, as the name suggests is any food that contains a collection of Carbon, Hydrogen & oxygen assorted into familiar items that we refer to as foods. Our bodies take these foods, breaks them down into these molecular components and utilises or rebuilds them into what ever is needed at them time. Sounds pretty simple right? So what’s with all the bad press?

Don’t get caught up on the name.

Firstly - the term “Carbs” is just too broad. The category of Carbohydrates contains so many different foods that it makes your head spin. Deep fried potato chips & oven baked potatoes are literally the same food item but are obviously vastly different for your health - but they are both “carbs.”

Why are Carbs important?

There are two main types of Carbs:

Simple: (readily available energy sources such as sugars found in fruit, honey, syrup etc)

Complex: (including starch & fibre such as vegetable skins & flesh, oats, rice, barely etc)

Energy: Carbohydrates mostly provide energy (4 calories/17kJ gram). Your body can use other source but Carbohydrates are the easiest and usually most readily available sources.

Fibre: Health promoting carb based foods such as starchy vegetables (Pumpkin/ potato/ sweet potato etc), whole wheat & grains (multigrain/ sourdoughs/ quinoa/ buckwheat etc), fruits (skins & flesh) and seeds (chia/ flax) are extremely important for providing your gut with nourishment in the form of fibre. There are two different types (soluble & insoluble) which are needed in equal amounts to ensure your gut stays clean & healthy.

Health Promoting: Diets that are higher complex carbohydrates are usually lower in fats & calories, providing more fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

How much Carbohydrate should I be eating?

This will vary for every individual based your specific needs, but as a rough estimate the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia & New Zealand recommend people should be getting 45-65% of their daily energy from carbohydrate sources. Preferentially coming from the complex carbohydrate sources.

How do I choose the right kind of carbohydrates?

Choosing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes that are high in fibre and low in salt. Try and use the “wholegrain” option in most breads, oats, barely etc and check the nutritional label that the first ingredients are/is “wholewheat flour” for your breads. Opt for high fibre, low sugar cereals where possible and limit foods with higher amounts of added or excess sugars & salts.

Joel Grech