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Busting the carb myths

Macaroni
Posted by: Julie Meek

There is nothing like a good villain to spice up a story and carbohydrate often plays that role without any evidence for conviction.

There are plenty of carb myths out there, today we investigate the top three:

MYTH 1: Carbohydrates are fattening

Excess energy (kilojoules or calories) consumed in any form (carbohydrate, fat, protein and alcohol) combined with a lack of exercise will promote an increase in body fat.

Once carbohydrate is digested and broken down into glucose, it is very efficiently stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. It is possible, albeit difficult to eat excess carbohydrate (more than 800 grams per day) and your body reacts by using this excess as fuel and storing any fat that you eat as body fat.

Carbohydrate is found in several foods and drinks including bread, cereal, pasta, rice, fruit, potato, sweet potato and corn, milk, yoghurt, legumes, sugar, honey and lollies. All carbohydrates get broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.

800 grams of carbohydrate is equivalent to 12 Weet-bix, 5 bananas, 10 slices of bread, 4 cups of pasta, 10 scoops of ice-cream and 1 litre of fruit juice. Not just one of these foods but the combination of them all equates to 800 grams of carbohydrate. Unless you are a hard-training athlete, this is no easy feat to eat in one day!

You need to think about the fat and sugar that may be associated with foods containing carbohydrate e.g. cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Some carbohydrates are very easy to consume in large quantities because they are low in fibre and contain little bulk. Some examples of these are soft drink, fruit juice, sugar in coffee, and lollies. These are not the type of carbohydrates you want to be eating a lot of.

Carbohydrates are not the villains in the weight war; it is what is added to them.

MYTH 2: Avoid eating carbohydrates after 5pm

There is nothing magical about 5pm and in the world of nutrition fiction, it has been chosen at random and not based on fact.

There is not one single scientific study that lends support to the theory that carbohydrates need to be cut out after 5pm. In addition, no recognised health authority endorses this theory either.

While it doesn’t make sense to eliminate carbohydrate foods at the evening meal, if you usually have large portions at dinner, then reducing the amount you eat could be advisable. Diabetics are one group of people who should definitely not cut out carbohydrates after 5pm, this could cause their blood sugar levels to drop too low – resulting in a coma, if not treated.

If you are trying to lose weight, reducing the total amount of food that you eat over the whole day will have a greater impact than cutting out carbohydrates. Eating more vegetables can also help reduce the amount of other foods on your plate.

MYTH 3: Proteins and carbohydrates should not be consumed in the same meal

The human body is very clever and does not get confused about the particular job that it is doing at any given time.

When any carbohydrate and protein comes sailing down the intestinal tract, the digestive juices in the small intestine supply the correct enzymes to complete the job of digesting carbohydrates to sugars, proteins to amino acids and fats to fatty acids. And, because the human body can multi-task, these processes happen at the same time.

Many foods we eat contain both carbohydrates and proteins in the one food. For example, dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese contain both protein and carbohydrate. Legumes such as peas, beans and lentils also fit into this category. These foods are not only delicious, but are a necessary part of a healthy diet.

Don’t forget to enjoy carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet but just make sure they are low in fat and sugar, and high in fibre. Check out LiveLighter for some tasty and healthy recipes, or if you need some more information on carbohydrates The Food File from Healthy Choices Healthy Futures is a great resource.

Until next time...

Julie :)

Julie Meek

About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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