Low-carb di­ets are back in a big way, but that doesn’t mean bread has to come off the menu. Stephanie Os­field ex­plains the new sci­ence

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Are carbs your friend or foe? Low-car­bo­hy­drate di­ets are noth­ing new. From Atkins to Pa­leo and the trendy Ke­to­genic diet, carbs have been de­monised so much they seem to have be­come the Darth Vader of our daily di­ets. But do they de­serve their bad rep­u­ta­tion? and are low-carb di­ets key to main­tain­ing a healthy weight? We look at the sci­ence.

Fuel For your Body

Car­bo­hy­drates are the petrol that fuels the body’s en­gine. In fact, they are the main en­ergy source for your body, mus­cles and brain. car­bo­hy­drates come from the sug­ars and starches in food. When you eat a slice of bread, for ex­am­ple, the di­ges­tive process breaks it down into glu­cose and then re­leases in­sulin to help trans­port the glu­cose to your cells to be used for en­ergy. the Gly­caemic in­dex (Gi) mea­sures and rates this ef­fect that car­bo­hy­drates have on your blood glu­cose and in­sulin.

if you don’t eat enough car­bo­hy­drates to main­tain this steady glu­cose sup­ply, your body is forced to start us­ing pro­tein or fat for en­ergy. this is a back-up sys­tem that’s de­signed to see your body through a sur­prise famine, so it’s a con­sid­er­ably less ef­fi­cient process.

Not all carBs are equal

Carbs are found in a range of foods, from car­rots and legumes through to cakes and lol­lipops. “What’s im­por­tant is to choose health­ier carbs found in whole grains, legumes [such as chick­peas], rice, fruit, starchy veg­eta­bles [like potato and corn], and in the lac­tose in foods like yo­ghurt and milk,” says di­eti­tian and spokesper­son for Nutri­tion aus­tralia, aloysa Houri­gan. Health­ier carbs tend to have a low Gi and are more slowly di­gested, ab­sorbed and metabolise­d. Foods with a higher Gi are di­gested quickly and tend to be higher in kilo­joules and sat­u­rated fat (think mashed potato and crois­sants). they’re also low in fi­bre so they’re less filling, which can leave you hun­gry in a few hours and more likely to reach for a snack. “the lat­est nu­tri­tional sci­ence has demon­strated that foods high in car­bo­hy­drates, in par­tic­u­lar those foods with more re­fined and high-Gi car­bo­hy­drates, cause a rapid el­e­va­tion in blood glu­cose,” says Pen­nie tay­lor, se­nior re­search di­eti­tian for the csiro and co-au­thor of the new csiro low carbs diet Plan. “over time, if not con­trolled, this can lead to type 2 di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and other ad­verse health out­comes.”

HFG FACT you don’t have to ex­clude all carbs from your diet to lose weight

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