SHOULD YOU GO LOW CARB?
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
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