Carbs: friend or foe?


The carbohydrates that pose the greatest threat to health are the simple, refined ones, especially sugar. High-sugar diets have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, even in people who are not overweight. One of the big contributors has been sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks. With sugar taxes coming into force in several countries we will watch with interest as sugar is replaced with substitutes. Unfortunately, research suggests that while sugar free soda may not have the same calorie count, their impact on our bodies leaves us craving a sweet hit from other sources. Sugar free doesn’t necessarily mean healthier.

However, one of the side effects of concern over sugar has been the demonization of carbohydrates in general, with hyped up fear generated against some very important food groups. I came across an example of carb paranoia recently when my offer of an apple to a hungry friend in the gym was spurned – because it’s filled with carbs! What did my friend believe she should eat? A protein bar!

I put here right, but in case anyone else is in doubt, here’s a quick outline of why the carbs in the apple shouldn’t be the focus, and why I would be much more worried about the sugar or sugar substitute in the protein bar.

Apples – what’s not to like?

Loaded with important antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fibre, a great source of vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, phytonutrients, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

What’s more they are cheap, readily available and even come in a consumable wrapping of skin.

The wide range of benefits apples can provide:

  • Fibre – great for weight management and helping avoid the health problems associated with being overweight – heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes. A recent study even suggests lack of fibre in our diets causes more deaths than air pollution…
  • Quercetin – an antioxidant studies have found can help boost your immune system.
  • Pectin – a natural fibre found in most plants, research by the European Journal of Nutrition found that eating pectin-rich whole apples had a cholesterol-lowering effect in healthy volunteers, compared to apple juice, which did not.
  • Help for friendly bacteria – research points to apples helping to regulate our gut bacteria in a way that might help with obesity and weigh management, however more research is needed.
Just be discerning when it comes to carbs

Our brain needs energy. Whole grains are another good example of how it can be provided in a healthier manner than refined grains, as they release glucose slowly into the bloodstream. Think oats, whole grain rice, pumpernickel bread.


Move beyond calories


Make eating real food Just Routine

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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