Ever since I can remember there's been this stigma against carbohydrates. A low carb diet has always been the way to lose weight, people tell you carbs aren't healthy and when you go to the supermarket the aisles are full of 'low carb' products. But are carbohydrates really something you should avoid? The answer is no. Carbs don't make you fat, nor do are they bad for us but we have to make sure we're eating the right ones.
Carbohydrates are the starchy or sugary part of foods. When we think of sugar we naturally think of foods that are really sweet like cake or biscuits, but in reality all carbs (including those like pasta, bread and potatoes) break down into glucose in the body which is what your body uses for fuel. Carbs are essential for our body and our brain, especially when participating in any form of physical activity. But we also need carbs to regulate mood and keep our intestines moving - so when we eat the right ones they're a real happiness-boosting food!
There are two types of carbohydrate - complex (the good -unrefined-) and simple (the bad - refined -). Complex carbs come in the form of whole grains such as brown rice, beans and vegetables. These are brilliant for our body for a number of reasons, firstly they take longer to digest which means our blood sugar levels won't spike therefore our energy levels stay even, i.e. no crashes! Complex carbohydrates also contain a lot of other important things such as protein, vitamins and fibre which help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. These complex carbohydrates provide our body with so much energy and goodness that you just can't get from another source.
Not all carbohydrates are good though, from your body's point of view there's not much difference between a spoonful of sugar and a slice of white bread! Simple carbohydrates, with the exception of fresh fruit, are the junk food that we know are bad for us - white bread, biscuits, muffins, cakes, white rice, sweetened drinks and all those other rubbishy foods. This type of carbohydrate is very quickly absorbed into our bloodstream which causes a sudden spike in our blood sugar levels which may give us a sudden burst of energy but that rapidly disappears and we're left feeling exhausted, hungry and our mood is badly effected as well. These carbs are also very refined - something we should always avoid.
A healthy, balanced diet must contain complex carbohydrates. These carbs will aid you with weight loss, provide you with energy, prevent you from snacking and keep your mood stable.
My favourite carbs are - quinoa which provides you with a lot of valuable protein and fibre, as well as buckwheat which I just love making into sweet creamy porridge or it's fab in risotto too. Root vegetables are a staple in my diet with my go-to being sweet potato as it punches such a vitamin kick with skin-glowing vitamin A & C! Normal potato is good too so don't be fooled by the bad reputation it has, just avoid chips and anything deep fried! Brown rice is another must have for me, it provides me with so much energy and is the perfect carb to pair with my favourite meals like curry and bean chilli. Buckwheat bread is my bread of choice as it's gluten free and all natural, I get mine from a brand called Biona who do some wonderful healthy breads that won't spike your blood sugar levels or make you feel sluggish and bloated. Last but not least is brown rice pasta - we all love pasta but sadly the white pasta that's all too common isn't good for us and we should be substituting for healthier, more nutritional and tastier brown rice pasta. Ive actually converted so many of my family and friends to this pasta as it's a much nicer taste and doesn't leave you feeling bloated afterwards!
Remember to always listen to your body, but make sure you include complex carbohydrates into your diet every day. Have them more often on days when you're working out as they're essential to refuel your body and aid in recovery, whereas days when you're not exercising aim to fuel more with healthy fats but carbs should always be including. You may not have them for every meal but I'd recommend include the good carbs in 2/3 of your meals to help you feel satisfied and much happier!