The confusion that reigns over this nutrient was unraveled at a recent breakfast seminar hosted by Anchor Yeast. Registered dietitian Monique Piderit delved into the controversial topic of “Carbohydrates” to clear the prevailing misconceptions.
There’s a common myth that carbohydrates make you fat. Sure, if eaten in unnecessarily large quantities they could contribute to weight gain, but, then again, so could too much of any food. In fact, carbohydrates are a healthy and necessary feature as part of your diet. This was the broad message communicated by Piderit.
Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs and are also a good source of many vitamins and minerals. “Healthier carbs are those in their whole form that undergo minimal processing, refining and milling. Consuming a diet rich in unrefined, wholegrain carbohydrates, like oats, brown or wild rice, quinoa and bread made from true whole wheat flour has many important benefits. Not all carbs are created equal,” says Piderit. Just like there are healthier fats that are best, there are better carbohydrate choices and less ideal choices, too.
The health benefits of keeping carbohydrates in your diet are numerous. Top of the list is the value of dietary fibre for gut health. When gut health is compromised, we can face major health consequences. Dietary fibre promotes a healthy gut by providing a food source for the healthy bacteria living in your gut.
While Carbs have a bad reputation when it comes to losing weight, the contrary is true. For weight loss, a low carb diet is just one way to control kilojoules, and research has shown no overall benefit in the long term compared to following a moderate, nutritionally balanced diet.
Some carbohydrates can help prevent weight gain and even promote weight loss. Fibre-rich carbs are known to help keep you fuller for longer.
A systematic review by South African researchers confirmed that low carb diets and balanced diets both produced similar weight loss results, confirming that the amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the diet does not influence weight loss, only the total energy intake itself.
In addition to other benefits such as preventing certain cancers and aiding in better sleep, recent research talks of how carbs can help boost your mood. Researchers suspect that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very low carbohydrate diet for a year, experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those on more balanced diet.
On examining a Low Carb Diet, the obvious effect is a concurrent higher fat consumption, with a drop in fibre intake. Low carb foods may be (unexpectedly) high in energy and if we remove these carbs from the diet we consequently eliminate vital nutrients, such as fibre, B-vitamins, anti-oxidants, to name a few. In addition to being an expensive diet, it lends itself to being less sustainable.
Moving away from the nutritional value of carbohydrates in our diet, we realise also that this nutrient group is kinder to our environment than other meal options. The carbon footprint of cereals and pulses, fruit and vegetables is significantly lower than beef, lamb and chicken.
The message is now clear, says Lorraine Bezuidenhout, Bakery Business Director for Anchor Yeast, “Carb up your diet by choosing the right carbs (high fibre options), apply the correct cooking method (bake/roast, boil, steam) and eat the right quantity (be portion wise).”