It’s January, which means you may have stood on the scales and decided to go on a diet. But what sort? For many years, low-carb diets have been in fashion – based on the belief that eating lots of carbohydrates, particularly in the form of sugary treats such as white bread, rice or pasta, is bad for your waist and for your blood-sugar control. The reasoning is that if you eat lots of carbohydrates and sugars, particularly the sort without fibre that get quickly absorbed, they will rapidly push up your blood glucose sugar levels. Unless you burn this glucose off by doing exercise, your pancreas will pump out lots of the hormone insulin to bring these levels back down to normal. It does this by storing the excess sugar from the carbs as fat. Too much stored fat, particularly visceral fat inside the abdomen can lead to serious health problems such as type-2 diabetes. As well as concern about the amount of carbs we eat, people also worry about when they get eaten. It’s widely believed, for example, that eating carbs in the evening is worse for you than having them for breakfast. That’s because first thing in the morning your body is raring to go and should soon burn up the glucose released from the carbs. When you eat late at night your body is preparing to sleep, so the body should take longer to clear it.
Published 17 January The effect on the members of the public was immediate and predictable.
The type and amount of carbs to include in your diet is a hotly debated topic, with compelling arguments from both sides. But what exactly are carbohydrates? Most carbs are broken down into a simple sugar, glucose, which is used to fuel our muscles and organs including the brain. Generally speaking, there are three main types of carbohydrates found in our diet and they each have a different effect on our bodies. Simple carbohydrates are made up of just one or two sugar molecules. There are two main types, soluble and insoluble — these are typically found in starchy carbs as well as in whole fruits and veg. Soluble fibre may be found in oats, barley and root vegetables as well as some fruits — studies have shown it may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dietary fibre also helps maintain a healthy environment in the gut. During digestion, simple carbs break down quickly while complex carbs release their energy more slowly. How the food is processed can also affect how our bodies handle the carbs — refined foods such as white bread will be broken down more quickly, releasing their energy faster. Ideally, the bulk of the carbohydrates in your diet should be complex, unrefined carbs, because they are a rich source of nutrients and dietary fibre.
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