Carbs are a commonly slandered food group, with all sorts of rumours swirling around about them. The pleasure of eating them usually comes with a side of guilt. But what if we told you that a lot of what we hear about them is not true? That’s right – carbs are a necessary food group for everyone to consume. We consulted nutrition expert Fatima Zoomkawala, who has an MSc in Nutrition, to help us in busting some widespread myths about the food group. Keep reading to learn more!
Carbs Are Fattening / Make You Gain Weight
You’ve probably heard someone say they’re “cutting carbs” to lose weight. Fatima says that in reality, the right amount of carbs can actually make you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight! The weight gain comes from excess consumption, which is true for any other type of food as well. The truth is, weight gain is more about total calorie intake as opposed to consumption of carbs. She says that the fibre found in carbs keeps you satiated and energised for longer durations. That being said, it is important to eat everything in whatever amount is right and healthy for your body.
You Should Avoid Eating Them At Night
You have probably heard the “no carbs past 7 pm” rule. Fatima explains that there’s really no evidence to show that the body can’t process carbs past this time. She says that, in fact, your body does not even know what time it is when you’re eating. Your metabolism is working 24/7, so there’s no need to worry about what time you eat. However she advises that it is better to avoid foods which are heavy on the stomach before going to bed as they may cause digestive issues for some individuals.
All Carbs Are The Same
Fatima verifies that this is not true – carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients, providing you with energy and essential nutrients. She explains that pulses, yogurt and milk, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, all contain varying amounts of carbohydrate providing a ton of nutrients. In reality, carbs take numerous different forms and types. The quality of the product is very important.
Fatima advises that it’s better to limit overly processed/refined carbs such as white bread, refined sugar, and desserts. Refined carbs spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which is something we definitely don’t need!
Low Carb Diets Are Ideal For Weight Loss
According to Fatima, this myth is only true to a certain extent. she explains that following any form of restricted diet will not show long term results. You’ll eventually gain the weight back once you stop with the low carb diet. Most of the weight loss happens due to calorie restriction. This means that you can find any combination to make a diet that works for you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be low carb.
In fact, she clarifies that sometimes a carbohydrate-deficient diet can cause headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, nutrient deficiencies and constipation. Hence, for a sustainable and healthier approach to weight loss, it is important to incorporate all three macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) into your diet in moderation!
They Are Filled With Sugar
All carbohydrates break down into glucose, a type of sugar and the most basic energy block and fuel for our bodies, as described by Fatima. The difference is that unrefined carbohydrates won’t spike your blood sugar levels like refined grains will. This circles back to how not all carbs are the same. Some of them contain natural sugars, which are easier for your body to break down, whereas others contain processed sugars. Fatima advises that if you want to cut down on sugar, the best way is to limit refined carbs such as processed bakery items, desserts, packaged crisps etc.
All Carbs Contain Gluten
Carbs are highly associated with foods like bread and pasta. However, that is not where the list ends. There are plenty of carbs that are completely gluten free, such as lentils, legumes, vegetables, fruits, natural sugars (honey, maple syrup), brown rice, quinoa.
You Shouldn’t Eat Them At Every Meal
According to Fatima, incorporating healthy, unrefined carbs at every meal is extremely important for a healthy balanced diet. Carbohydrates help keep your energy levels up, while also maintaining digestive health. So feel free to add in natural, whole carbs at every meal!
Proteins Are Better
While protein is an essential food group, carbs cannot be disregarded in relation to them. The ultimate diet will consist of all three essential macronutrients – proteins, carbs and fats. They are used in harmony to provide many of your body functions. No one is “better” than the other – balance is key.
Carbs Are Difficult To Digest
Fatima says that it is true that some carbs high in fibre can be more difficult to digest, but this doesn’t mean all carbs. Only foods that contain high contents of insoluble fibres can cause this; for example kale and broccoli. In fact, other whole grains are much easier on the stomach; such as bananas and cucumbers.
Carbs Are Bad For Gut Health
Fatima explains that your gut has millions of microbes (the good bacteria) keeping it healthy and happy! Whole carbs that contain fibre play a key role in feeding the good gut bacteria for a healthy microbiome. She elaborates that a healthy microbiome is not just related to digestive health, but also brain health and immunity. Carbs like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes support your microbiome health.