With the abundance of information at our fingertips there appears to be a lack of understanding about carbohydrates.  Two common things I hear people say when talking about their diet are  “I don’t eat carbs after 4pm” or “I have cut out all carbs (from my diet)”.  I ask a little more about their diet to discover they are eating fruit and or vegetables.  The look on some people’s face is total shock when I tell them they are both carbohydrates!  But let’s think about it, if removing one food from one period of the day was all it took to lose weight we should all be thin.

What are carbohydrates?

But carbohydrates aren’t all bad. Carbohydrates is one of the three macro-nutrients found in food, along with protein and fat. Each macro-nutrient has a different role, but all of them provide energy or calories to help your body go through your daily activities.  Carbohydrates are essential in our diet as our body needs them to function well. The  three main types of carbohydrates that naturally occur are sugars, starch and fibre.  Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, grains, seeds and legumes.

The Glycemic Index

To help increase our understanding about carbohydrates, we may be better looking at the types of carbohydrates consumed.  Some carbohydrates may be better for us than others.  When ingested carbohydrates break down into glucose and are absorbed into our blood stream.  Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly or slowly a carbohydrate food digests and increase blood glucose levels.  Many healthy natural carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products are low on the Glycemic Index.  This can benefit your weight management by resulting in a slower rise and peak in blood glucose levels.  Providing a feeling of fullness for longer after a meal.  If you want to see how your carbohydrates stack up against the GI got to

Health benefits from Carbohydrates

Including healthy carbohydrates in your diet is vital to your health.  Carbohydrates can:

Provide energy.  Our bodies use carbohydrates as its main source of fuel.  When sugars and starch are broken down into glucose our bodies use this to fuel all our activities from breathing to exercise.

Protect against disease.  Whole grains and dietary fibre help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Fibre may also protect us against obesity and type 2 diabetes and is important for digestive health.

Aid weight management.  Evidence shows eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help control your weight.  Their bulk and fibre content aids weight control by helping you feel fuller on fewer calories.

Making Carbohydrates work for you

Even though carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet providing many nutrients, not all carbs are created equal.  Here are some tips to make carbohydrates work for you:

  • Choose fibre rich fruit and vegetables;
  • Choose whole grains;
  • Choose low to moderate GI foods where possible;
  • Stick to low fat dairy products;
  • Include beans and legumes;
  • Limit added sugar.

So, in conclusion, choose your carbohydrates wisely!  There’s no weight loss magic attached to not eating carbs after 4pm other than reducing the number of calories you eat.  Remember that it’s the quality and quantity of food you eat when considering your weight loss goals.  A healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are ideal.