The importance of carbs

The importance of carbsIn recent years there’s been a trend for cutting carbs to lose weight fast, but does it really work and more importantly – is it healthy?

In the health advice column of the Telegraph this week a reader asked:

“I have been on a low-carb, high-protein diet for a year now and have lost 15lb. I love my new body but is it safe to stay on this diet in the long-term?”

One nutritional therapist Melanie Brown says carbohydrates are vital for concentration and memory because they are the brain’s primary fuel. Low-carb diets tend to be high in protein because people eat more meat to compensate for the lack of ‘substance’. However, too much meat is thought to be a cancer risk so Melanie advises eating plant protein instead, such as lentils, beans and nuts.

GP Rupal Shah is dubious about the safety of low-carb diets. She says a number of studies show avoiding carbohydrates could even raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. She advises anyone who follows a low carb diet to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to avoid vitamin deficiencies.

It’s thought that eating too much protein can put strain on the kidneys and nutritionist Nigel Denby says each day you should eat 1g of protein per number of kilograms you weigh (i.e. if you are 60kg, eat 60g of protein). He suggests reintroducing carbohydrates into your diet in the form of sweet potato, brown rice and grainy breads. These ‘good carbs’ keep you feeling full and contain plenty of fibre for smooth digestion.

Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source so it is rarely a good idea to cut them out completely. Avoiding things like white bread, white rice and white pasta in favour of brown or wholegrain varieties may be a better alternative to the low-carb diet.

For information about how much of what you should eat each day, please visit our Balanced Diet page.

View and comment on the original Telegraph article.

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Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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