The Truth About Carbs That NHS Doesn't Seem To Get Right
Whilst there are essential amino acids (found in proteins) and essential fats (like omega 3), there aren’t any essential carbohydrates. Hence, carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient because our bodies can obtain all the energy from protein and fats.
Are carbs really that evil?
To answer the above question correctly the very first thing that needs to be clarified is – what exactly are carbs?
Carbohydrates are energy producing compounds found in a lot of the foods that we eat that make up one of the three macronutrient groups.
The other two macronutrient groups are:
- proteins and
I’ve come across this NHS Choices article – “The truth about carbs” which covers the topic of carbohydrates in depth and should be helping the general public to become more educated about the whole issue of carbohydrates. But they could have really done a much better job at explaining to people that there are two types of carbs:
- highly processed carbs which we get from foods like cereals, breads, pastas, pastries, cakes, soft drinks;
- and then we have natural carbs which we get from natural foods like vegetables, salads, legumes, fruits.
In my opinion there is a huge difference between those two groups of carbs. The only similar thing between them is that yes, they both will provide our bodies with energy.
However we need more than just energy from the foods we eat! We need a whole host of minerals, vitamins, enzymes etc. so that our bodies function to the best of their ability each and every day.
From what I’ve learnt about nutrition by reading hundreds of articles online, books and attending different courses, I’ve come to a conclusion that there aren’t really that many reasons to eat the highly processed carbs foods:
- their nutritional value isn’t great gram for gram as compared with the natural carbs foods;
- they usually pack in a lot of calories in one portion, e.g. cereals, pasta, pizza, soft drinks;
- they don’t contain that many minerals, vitamins and enzymes and sometimes none at all;
- their GL (glyceamic load) is usually really high meaning that once we eat them, those foods will be converted into glucose very quickly and they will raise our blood sugar levels very quickly;
When we eat a meal based mainly on the highly processed carbs, e.g. breads, pastas, pizzas, pies, pastries, cereals, we’ll be getting a lot of calories/energy which our body won’t be able to use up straight away. So this is how the process after such a meal would look like:
- you get lots of calories from those highly processed carbs which are easily converted into glucose raising your blood sugar quickly,
- insulin is released to enable your body to store the energy which is not used up and required immediately,
- some of the blood sugar is stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles but those stores have limited capacity,
- the excess of blood sugar is escorted by insulin for safe storage in your fat cells in the form of triglycerides and the storage capacity of the fat cells is huge!
Now take the different scenario – a meal based on natural carbs containing fibre, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and much less calories. Your body will be getting energy which will be released slowly plus lots of other good ingredients from all those lovely fresh vegetables, legumes, salads and fruits!
A word of warning about potatoes – they are best consumed in moderation and either steamed or baked in their skins. And the same goes for rice – best consumed in moderation.