There is a lot of controversy and conflicting information on carbohydrates and what their role in our diets should be. On one side we have dieters telling us to avoid carbs in any form as much as possible, on the other side we have advocates of a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in animal products. What is causing this confusion? And what is science really telling us?
First please note, this article is not here to criticise anyones opinions or beliefs but simply to offer a perspective based on recent scientific journals. It is my intention to assist those who would like clarification and hopefully offer a path towards health and happiness according to what most recent scientific findings are suggesting (cute squirrel for extra smiles).
OK, back to the nitty gritty!
The biggest problem first and foremost is the lack of distinguish between a healthy carb and a processed carb. These two types of carbs have profoundly different effects on our bodies, including, commonly, our weight:
Whole-carbs are unprocessed and contain the natural fibre, proteins and other nutrients required for our bodies to obtain maximum benefit from the carb. These are foods such as whole-grains, fruits and vegetables. This article in the US National Library of Medicine, found that higher intake of whole-grains (aka unprocessed carbs) was linked to a lower risk of chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease. This makes carbs sound rather appealing to me!
Here is the contrast.. Processed carbs have much of the fibre stripped out and often contain additives such as processed sugar,
The refined processed carbs are being found to have the opposite effect on our health. This study based in India showed a rapid surge of health issues being caused by the introduction of refined and processed carbohydrate foods. This is likely due to the lack of fibre content causing rapid spiking in blood sugar and insulin levels as well as nutritional imbalances from the lack of nutrients in processed carbs. Some examples of processed carbohydrates include white flour (in breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, cereal etc) white rice and sugar.
So what happens if we do cut out all carbohydrates from the diet?!
A low carb diet has been shown to result in weight loss.. However, there does seem to be some negative implications that should be taken into consideration: Here scientists found that low carbohydrate diets were associated with a higher risk of death, particularly when carbohydrates were replaced with animal fats and proteins. This 2019 study also voices concern over gut health and over all health effects of a low carbohydrate diet despite the weight-loss and insulin levels lowering.
So instead lets take a look at the findings of diets including a moderate amount of whole-carbs!..
Scientists are linking moderate intake of whole-food carbohydrates to long-term reduction in chronic disease as well as lower mortality rates, as seen in this study here. Another study comparing refined and wholegrain carbohydrates recommended the inclusion of wholegrain in the diet for reducing risk of type 2 diabetes as well as to induce healthy weight-loss. Here, this article elaborates on the nutritional benefits of whole-grains including the many vitamins and minerals present in whole-grains, the good content of plant based proteins and the heart health benefiting rich fibre content!
To summarise, both a low-carb diet and the inclusion of wholegrain are showing a result in weight-loss. However, the long-term implications of a diet restricting carbohydrates is associated with negative impacts on heart and gut health. where as wholegrain are associated with an improvement in over-all health and lifespan!
How can you enjoy your carbs and be healthy too?!
Get your carbohydrates from whole-foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. This could include brown rice, whole-wheat, buckwheat, rye, quinoa, wild rice, whole oats, barley.
Pair them with an abundance of other whole-plant foods!
Avoid processed sugar and refined carbohydrates as much as possible. Examples of this are pasta made from white flour,
cakes and biscuits, white bread, sodas, pasties etc.
Get creative! Keep an eye on our facebook page for whole-food plant-based recipes, nutrition info and so much more goodies!
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