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  • Mar 8th 2016
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Are you confused about carbohydrates? Want to know the difference between the good and bad? Or how to moderate carbs when cooking? Nutritionist Emma Stirling from Scoop Nutrition has the perfect guide for you.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three major food groups; fat and protein are the other two. Carbohydrates can be divided into two main categories, sugars and starches. Overall, most carbohydrates contain important nutrients and are the principal energy source for muscles and metabolism.

Sugars include glucose, sucrose (common table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and lactose (dairy sugar) and other ingredients with the suffix -ose. Many carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, the preferred energy source for your brain.

The starch group is found in foods like wheats (bread), cereals, potatoes, legumes and grains. Starches are eventually broken down to glucose within your body.

Do carbs cause fat gain?

Yes and no.

The most common myth is that carbohydrates turn straight to fat stores. The human body does have a mechanism for this however, for a normal, healthy individual the process of de novo lipogenesis (carbohydrate into fat stores) is actually insignificant.

You see the human body actually has finite carbohydrate stores. The liver stores approximately 0.5kg and muscle stores about 1.5kg-2kg. Remember though, all foods contain kilojoules and if overeaten can cause weight gain.

Cutting carbs can lead to rapid weight loss but the initial drop on the scales is fluid loss, not fat loss. Very low carb diets can lead to dehydration, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration and bad breath. There is also added pressure placed on the kidneys and at times, your heart muscle.

What about GI?

Foods containing greater than 10g carbohydrates per serve can be measured via the Glycemic Index (GI). This is a measure of the speed at which the carbohydrate as blood glucose enters the blood stream.

Slow release of carbs are better as it assists in maintaining a relatively steady state. This is good for cognition, concentration, alertness and mood. Low GI foods include sweet potato, pasta, legumes, yogurt, milk and certain whole grains.

So what’s the best approach?

Choose nutrition carbs when cooking that are naturally nutrient rich.  Top choices include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and ancient grains like freekeh and farro, sourdough or dark rye bread, lentils and legumes, plus dairy foods including delicious Greek yoghurt.

Practice a little carb caution and watch your portion control when cooking or plating.  About a quarter of your plate or dish can be carbs, ½ the plate vegetables and the rest a lean protein source. 

Extra! Extra! Do you read all about it?  Nutrition and health, that is?  Well we think you’re going to love Emma’s blog Scoop Nutrition. Designed to be a one-stop shop for credible nutrition blogs.  Australian nutrition professionals with established credentials write all the blog posts. 

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