Why carbs actually arent bad (and why not all carbs are the same)
A common question I get from patients, is what they should do about carbs... 🌿Carbohydrates have been shunned in recent years, for fairly valid reasons -an epidemic of highly refined carbs and added sugar in processed foods is thought to be one of the biggest factors in skyrocketing rates of chronic disease 🌿Yet by cutting out all carbs, we actually end up missing out on a huge group of nutrients - not to mention creating restrictions that aren't needed 🌿Carbs are a diverse food group, ranging from simple carbs to complex, yet they often get lumped together 🌿Simple carbs include glucose, fructose and lactose - one or two sugar molecules that are quickly broken down and absorbed after eating, causing a spike in blood sugar 🌿Over time, high intake of simple carbs have been linked to inflammation, diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, dementia etc 🌿Yet complex carbs are entirely different - oligo and polysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules that are tightly joined, meaning the body cannot break them down and absorb them 🌿They do not spike blood sugar, and are instead broken down by bacteria in the large intestine 🌿These carbs are highly beneficial, they: - feed gut bacteria - help satiety (feeling full) - aid in weight loss - regulate blood sugars - help the body excrete toxins and cholesterol - improve hormones (fibre helps balance oestrogen levels) - help absorb calcium 🌿When gut bacteria digest fibre and starch, they produce short chain fatty acids, which feed the gut wall, provide a protective barrier, and stop 'leaky gut' 🌿This also stops gut inflammation (ie IBD) and protects against bowel cancer 🌿Fibre is a complex carb, and comes in many forms - all from whole plant foods, and all essential for health. 🌿High fibre diets are shown to protect against many diseases - depression, autoimmune disease, breast and bowel cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverculitis, and even dementia 🌿Most western diets are very low in fibre, recommended daily intake is a minimum of 30g/day, up to 70g/day has benefits. There is increasing research that low carb diets may actually be harmful to gut health and the gut microbiome - all the more reason to include some healthy carbs ! 🌿Slowly increasing fibre if you don't eat much is sensible, as the good bacteria that digest it, also produce gas. If your gut struggles to cope with fibre (it can take a period of adjustment, especially if you have IBS and have been following a low FODMAP diet), then try initially with a fibre supplement such as psyllium husk - ie 1-2 tsp/day initially, then gradually increase this over weeks, aiming for around 3 Tbsp/day eventually. Once you are tolerating this, you can start to add extra fibre, one mix I often recommend is equal quantities of chia seed, ground linseed, and quinoa flakes - again around 3 tbsp/day added to foods is great. Eventually you'll find you can tolerate more and more!
🌿Its best to try get ultimately fibre from as many sources as possible - they all have different benefits and a healthy gut and body relies on a big variety of food!!
🌿 Try 'eat a rainbow' ie focus on including as many whole plant foods as possible, rather than restricting foods
🌿Fibre from whole foods is superior to the fibre added in commercial foods - these can still help but tend to be single types of fibre, without the other nutrients that whole foods contain
🌿Different gut bacteria thrive on different types of fibre and complex carbs, so by eating a rainbow you are literally feeding your gut!!
🌿Low carb diets that significantly restrict plant foods tend to be low in fibre, and have been shown to have an adverse effect on gut bacteria, as well as leading to a reduced gut mucin (protective coating lining the gut)
🌿If you follow a low carb diet, try focusing on including as many low GI plant foods and fibre as possible
🌿In contrast to what many people think, people who follow high fibre diets rich in complex carbs actually lower their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation
🌿In a harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, people following a high fibre diet had a massive 40% reduction in heart disease!! Another harvard study of female nurses showed similar results
🌿Not all carbs are created equal 😊