The demonisation of carbohydrates began with the Akins diet. First we were told that carbs were bad, then we watched on as celebrities and A-listers alike started touting the benefits of going carb-free.
But it didn’t take long before we realised the negative effects of this extreme form of dieting. Over time, we’ve learned about the pitfalls of diets that advocate eliminating entire food groups. Doctors and nutritionists have publicised the dangers of such diets.
Now we know that not all carbohydrates are equal. There are good carbs that are necessary for proper functioning of the body and brain and then there are bad carbs that cause weight gain, decreased energy and irritability. So get to know the good carbs from the bad and work on cutting back, rather than eliminating altogether.
Aren’t all carbs the same?
No. There are two main types of carbohydrates: refined carbohydrates and unrefined carbohydrates. The major difference between these two types of carbs is with where they sit on the Glycemic Index. Refined carbohydrates are high on the Glycemic Index (often referred to as being: ‘high GI’) and unrefined carbohydrates are lower, so they’re usually referred to as ‘low GI’.
What’s the difference between high and low GI?
The major difference is that low GI foods release energy slowly and steadily, so they’ll keep your energy levels up throughout the day. High GI foods give a large, quick burst of energy followed by a crashing drop that leaves you feeling sluggish and tired.
How can you tell the difference between good and ‘not so good’ carbs?
Opt for low GI carbohydrates by choosing wholegrain and wholemeal foods over ‘white’ foods. So swap white rice for brown rice and plain pasta for wholemeal pasta and choose breads that have lots of grains such as soy, linseed and rye breads.
Which carbohydrates should you avoid?
Cut back on refined carbs – this means staying away from biscuits, cakes, muffins and potato chips. Instead, snack on sweet potato chips (they’re lower in GI than white potato) and bake with wholemeal pasta if you desperately need a sweet baked treat.