BY AOIFE MORRISON
IF ever there was a food that has been unjustly vilified, it’s carbs.
The diet industry loves to tout them as the root of weight gain, the one food you should avoid if you want your ‘dream body,’ the cause of all that ails you.
And if we don’t get correct education on the facts of nutrition, and how foods impact our body, our energy, and our mood, we just assume these ‘experts’ are correct.
So, the carbs get cast aside like expired milk while we wait for the magic to happen.
Yet the question remains, why is this myth still perpetuated? Why do people keep trying to rid themselves of glorious carbs?
Because initially if you banish them from your life, you will start to see results.
Now hold on, before you rush off to throw out all the bread and pasta in your house, hear me out. These results do not last.
To understand why, I need to get a teeny bit ‘sciencey’.
When we consume and digest carbs, what our bodies do not use straight away is stored as something called glycogen. This glycogen holds water, in a ration of approximately 1:3. For every one gram of glycogen stored, you store up to 3g of water. So, when you ditch all the carbs, your body uses this stored glycogen, and the water is released. Enter ‘weight loss’, which is just water, not fat. You get all excited, decide carbs are the devil and try to push on.
What happens next is the result of most diets – craving carbs like oxygen. The inevitable eating of carbs soon follows and it’s hello to water weight again, perpetuating the belief that carbs are the root of weight gain.
But here is what you need to understand. Carbohydrates are our brain’s only source of energy, and also our body’s preferred source. Have you ever noticed when you have not eaten for a few hours, your body drives you to high carb foods?
That is because they are the quickest way to give your body what it needs to keep you alive! To avoid this, there is an amazingly simple solution…eat more food.
If you make sure you eat regularly, every two to three hours, and ensure you are including foods that keep you fuller and sustained for longer, your body simply will not need those quick and easy hits of carbs.
You see, there is nothing ‘bad’ about eating pasta or bread. No food should be given any moral value. It is food, and you are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, based on what you eat.
And I just know there is someone out there screaming at this page saying, ‘you should only eat whole grain carbohydrates.’
To that person I say, please sit down and listen: yes, whole-grain carb options, such as wholegrain bread or pasta, are great. They contain more fibre so will keep you fuller and reduce spikes in blood sugar. But if you are someone who does not like them, that does not mean you cannot enjoy white pasta.
What you can do, is focus on eating carb-based food, such as pasta, with a protein, chicken, and some fibre, like vegetables. That way you still get the joy of a delicious meal, but will also feel nourished, satisfied, and stay fuller for longer.
We tend to eat more of carbs because they are digested quickly by the body, leading to hunger soon after. But by having intention behind what we eat, by looking at what we can add, rather than take away, we simply get the best of both worlds. And I, for one, will never walk away from my love affair with pasta.
• Aoife Morrison is a qualified nutritionist. For more contact 087 448 8540, email [email protected], or check out Mums for Nutrition on Instagram.