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It seems these days, carbs are getting a bad rap. Left off dinner plates across the nation in favour of the ‘keto’ diet, for those following ‘Atkins’ or those who have decided that the low-carb life is for them. But there are two sides to every story – and today we’re putting carbs in the spotlight.

Firstly, what are ‘carbs’?  There are three main categories that carbohydrates can be divided up into:

  • Sugars – such as fructose and glucose
  • Starches – longer chains of glucose molecules that are eventually broken down by the body
  • Fibre – such as prebiotics

Carbs are an essential part of our diets as they provide us with energy to be able to function and go about our day.  Whilst most carbs get broken down into glucose (to be used as energy in the immediate term) or converted to fat (to be used as energy down the track). Fibre on the other hand, plays a slightly different role. Some fibres are broken down and used as a food source for the good bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive system.

Secondly, are carbs ever really ‘good’ and ‘bad’? We think not. You may have heard the terms ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ when it comes to carbs – but for the sake of today’s blog (and for the sake of simplicity), we’ll use the terms ‘refined’ and ‘whole’.

Whole carbs

Good carbs v bad carbs

Whole carbs are found in foods that have not been processed – they are carbs that are found in foods that are consumed in their natural state. Whole carbs can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. As a simple guide, if what you’re eating is still in it’s natural state (ie a whole piece of fruit rather than fruit juice), then the carbs you’ll be consuming will be whole carbs.

Refined carbs

Refined carbs on the other hand are generally found in foods that have been processed – think white pasta, bread and rice, pastries, juices, cakes and the like. Refined carbs are absorbed quickly into the blood stream, which can often feel like a very quick spike in energy, followed by an equally quick energy crash. The perfect example of this is when you raid the biscuit tin at work during an attack of the 3pm munchies. You’ll feel great as soon as you eat your sweet treat, but your energy levels quickly plummet to lower than they were previously – and you’ve found yourself in a vicious cycle of peaks and troughs. Choosing whole carbs over refined carbs is a sure-fire way to keep your energy levels on an even keel throughout the day.

So, what’s the bottom line? Carbs are an essential source of energy. Fuel your body the right way by consuming the majority of your carbs from wholefood sources. Carbs derived from wholefood sources will keep you fuller for longer, keep your energy levels stable and will also keep your gut health in great shape. If that’s not a win-win-win bringing carbs back onto your dinner plate, we don’t know what is!

Intended as general advice only. Consult your health care professional to discuss any specific concerns.

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