Many trendy diets are increasingly avoiding carbs in the pursuit of automatic weight loss – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Now it’s all about slow-release to help you manage your weight goals.
Many provide vitamins, phytochemicals (a powerful source of anti-oxidants) and enzymes – vital for all the chemical reactions in your body. And they’re the body’s preferred fuel, over protein and fat, so cut them out completely and you’ll soon find you’re running on empty.
For refined carbohydrates like sugar, cakes, biscuits, crisps and pastries, the answer is very little. These empty calories, while total nom, are inevitably stored as fat when not burned off.
Hero carbs, on the other hand, are the complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, wholemeal bread and pasta, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses, providing energy, vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in fibre – without them you’re likely to experience constipation.
But it’s hard to sustain long-term; when Harvard University followed 322 dieters, only 78 per cent of those on low-carbohydrate plans stuck with their diets, while nearly 90 per cent of those on a high-carb diet were still going strong after two years.
The key is to remember carbohydrates alone won’t make you fat – you’ll only gain body fat if you eat more than you use up.
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For sporty types, bear in mind what your goals are. What you eat before, after – and during – exercise can affect performance. Starchy food like pasta, bread and rice can be a useful energy boost before a race.
But carb-loading is a seriously abused pastime; you don’t need to stock up on them for any session of less than 90 minutes, unless it’s really high intensity. Choose wholegrain options, as well as beans and pulses to ensure you’re getting the energy, fibre and nutrients to get the most from your training.
The key is to avoid being overly restrictive when you’re trying to lose weight, and not to label foods as ‘bad’ as this can create food guilt issues. Instead, have a varied diet rich in fibrous carbohydrate foods, with plenty of fruit and veg and some high-protein foods, and keep added sugar and junk food snacks to the occasional treat.
The Obesity Epidemic, Zoe Harcombe