Vitamin K

Vitamin K is usually the nutrient that most people don’t know anything about or haven’t even heard of before. It is a fat soluble vitamin and it’s most important role is involved in the formation of a blood clot. Vitamin K is made up of a family of compounds also known as quinones and is used by the liver to make blood clotting factors and is also really important in activating these factors when blood clotting is needed. It may also have an important role in Read more of this post

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and is actually the name given to a family of 8 different naturally occurring chemicals which have a range of functions within the body. Primarily, vitamin E is an essential part of the bodies anti-oxidant system and helps protect the body against oxidative stress. Anti-oxidants fight oxidative stress by ‘defusing’ the damaging chemical reactions triggered by Read more of this post

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the vitamin that we get from the sun. It is actually not considered a true vitamin but a pro-hormone created by the action of sunlight on the skin and then activated by the liver and kidneys. The activated form of vitamin D has a number of functions within the body, one of the most important being Read more of this post

Are Carbohydrates Bad For You?

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

One of the most common questions I am asked is: “Are carbohydrates bad for you?”. With so much conflicting information, the answer is not as simple as we would like it to be. So are they bad for you or not?

What are they?

Carbohydrates are a family of nutrients that provide the body with energy. In fact, carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. They include sugars, starches and fibre. Some examples of sugars include fruit sugars, table sugar, brown sugar, honey, golden syrup, glucose & lactose (sugar found in dairy).  The other types of carbohydrates includes any food that is made from grains or vegetables (rice, wheat, corn, barley, oats & potato) and include things like pasta, bread, rice, crackers, chips and breakfast cereals.

The type matters

Carbohydrates, as mentioned earlier, are the body’s primary energy source so we do need to eat them. We just need to eat the right type.

The ability to manufacture and process food, that occurred over the last half of the 20th century, has meant that Western diets have changed dramatically over the years. Highly processed foods are often very high in ‘refined’ carbohydrates and sugar and tend to be very low in fibre. These foods are generally high in energy and we easily overeat them.

This increase in processed foods is believed to be one contributor to the increase in overweight and obesity seen in modern Western cultures.

Research has shown that consumption of low fibre and high sugar diets are detrimental to long term health and with this research has followed a string of low-carbohydrate diets and weight loss treatments.

The right type

The right type of carbohydrate to be eating has had limited processing and is high in fibre. These foods include fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas etc), grains (oats, barley etc), nuts, seeds and pseudo grains (quinoa).

Foods that contain fibre are more filling, have a low glycemic index, keep blood sugar levels stable, are essential for good bowel health and reduce total cholesterol levels. In terms of preventing and treating  type 2 diabetes the type of carbohydrate consumed is very important. Research has shown that carbohydrate intake derived primarily from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are the best choice (Mann, 2007).

The above mentioned foods not only contain the appropriate type of carbohydrate but also contain other nutritional properties that are incredibly beneficial to our health such as folate, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Choose whole, fresh and unprocessed foods and you generally can’t go wrong. These foods will always be the best choice. Carbohydrates aren’t all bad and any information that you come across saying that they are is not very good advice. It’s all about balance and ensuring that your diet is characterised by healthy carbohydrates, rather than highly manufactured and processed ones.

If you would like more information and advice on how to construct a healthy meal take a look at this post, Techniques You Must Master to Construct a Healthy Meal.