GOOD CARB – BAD CARB – Debunking those carbohydrate myths!
Over the past few decades, there has been a constant love-hate relationship with carbohydrate foods – one minute they’re good for us the next you should avoid them like the plague! What should you believe? Let’s settle the score and debunk a few myths about this fascinating food group.
Myth #1: All carbs are bad.
To simplify, Carbohydrates are stored energy; made by plants from water and carbon dioxide. They provide a large proportion of daily energy requirements and are the most readily converted energy source. When they are broken down in the body they impact blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. High GI carbohydrate foods are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low GI carbohydrate foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance. Opting for low GI carbs over high GI options is a simple dietary change that benefits your health in the long term.
Myth #2: Brown bread is better for you than white bread.
The colour of bread used to be a quick, reliable indicator of whether or not it was good for you, now days this isn’t the case! Over the past few years, the nutritional profile of white bread has also been boosted with the addition of things like wheat fibre, making it an option for parents with fussy eaters. As a guide, always check the ingredients listed on pack to find out if the bread is in fact a healthier choice. Look for ingredients like whole-grain, whole wheat or whole meal flour as the first ingredients declared. You can also check the Nutrition Information Panel to check the difference in fibre levels.
Myth #3: A sugar-free product is the same as a low-carb product
Unfortunately, the terms ‘sugar-free’ and ‘low-carb’ are terms that cannot be used interchangeably as they do not mean the same thing. A product can have no added sugar but still contain carbohydrates. Think of it like this – all sugars are carbohydrates but not all carbohydrates are sugars. On the nutrition information panel, ‘Carbohydrate’ is the sum total of sugars + fibre + starch + (sometimes) sugar alcohol. A ‘low-carb’ food is one which has less total carbohydrate than a reference food. However, foods labeled ‘sugar-free’ are not necessarily low carb as sugar is only one of the components adding to the carbohydrate total.
The bottom line is –
Do not eliminate carbohydrate foods from your diet, vital organs like your brain and spleen can only use carbohydrates as their energy source to function. If you cut them out you leave these vital organs with nothing to run on! Opt for low GI over high GI carbs. This would mean opting for brown rice instead of white, wholegrain crisp bread over rice cakes and wholegrain or ‘grainy’ bread over white bread.