Keto diets, low carb diets, Atkin diets… For many years, carbohydrates have had a bad rap, with many popular diets focusing on either choosing to eliminate them or reduce them heavily. With so many people stepping away from carbs then, why have they got such a bad rap? And do we actually need to eat them?
Carbohydrates are actually pretty important. Not only do they fuel your body, but they also fuel your brain. Your brain runs on glucose and glucose comes from carbs so without them, your brain – and your body – will struggle to operate. While you can get energy from protein and fat, carbohydrates are the main energy source, so if you cut these completely from your diet, you’ll feel tired and the brain fog will set in.
The positive benefits of carbohydrates don’t stop there…
They’re mood boosting
Many carbs contain tryptophan, which helps produce the feel-good hormone serotonin in your brain. This not only helps to keep you happy, but also helps give you a better quality of sleep. If you’re struggling to nod off at night, up your carbs before bed-time – try a banana with a handful of almonds or a small bowl of cereal with milk.
They help keep you regular
Anyone who’s ever suffered from ‘Atkins constipation’ knows how important carbs are to keeping your bowel movements regular! Whole grains, fruits and veggies contain a whole lot of fibre so to remove this from your diet totally could be disastrous for your tummy. Government guidelines say we should eat around 30g of fibre a day – sounds daunting but two Weetabix contain 3.6g fibre whereas 80g of wholewheat pasta has 4.2g of fibre.
Eating carbs makes you feel satisfied
What happens when you really, really want a bowl of comforting pasta, but instead you opt for the healthier salad or even a pasta substitute such as courgetti? You may feel virtuous but we’re guessing that you don’t feel very satisfied. Chances are you’re also want to eat something even less virtuous later in the day undoing all the good that salad did… So, eat a small bowl of pasta or have some peanut butter on toast and it will make you feel more satisfied and help boost your brain.
They’ll help you get you vitamin intake
If you cut out a food group, chances are you’re also cutting out essential vitamins. In fact, carbs are found in lots of nutrition-filled foods such as whole grains, dairy, fruit and vegetables, so if you cut them out – or even lower them – you could be missing all the essential nutrients contained in them.
They help keep your hormones regulated
Our brain contains glands like the pituitary and hypothalamus that help regulate hormones. When we don’t have enough carbs, hormone production can be disrupted, which then leads to irregular periods, lowered fertility, hypoglycaemia and ironically, fat gain around the middle. Not great if you’re doing a low carb diet for weight loss!
They can make you live longer
The key to carb is moderation. A study discovered that a low carb diet was just as bad for health as a high carb diet. Those who ate a moderate amount of carbohydrates however were found to have added around four years to their life expectancy.
As with many things, it seems that when it comes to eating carbs, it’s best to keep to the everything in moderation rule. Don’t cut them out completely, try and stick to quality complex carbs and if you do indulge in a pasta/bread/chip binge, don’t beat yourself up – after all, it’s only food!