When it comes to finding the right foods to eat, it’s pretty much a mind field! One day your being told that fats are good for you and that eating carbs will make you fat and then next day, fats are bad and increase risk of heart disease and carbs are actually okay to eat!
So how can anymore make an informed decision with so much contradicting information and lack of evidence to support some of these claims about the foods we eat.
That seems to be the problem is the lack of evidence when the media makes these articles about what we should all be eating or they have a so called health coach that’s read a couple of books to give an opinion.
I do see many clients that have been influenced by either books from celebrities, media articles and health coaches that unfortunately have no nutritional qualifications and give advise on what is best to eat. Well that’s like me trying to inform people about the law when actually I have no law qualifications at all!
That’s why I wanted to break down the myths associated with in particular carbohydrates which to be honest have had a pretty bad wrap over the years and fats as these too have been demonised recently.
So what is the truth?
Let’s take carbohydrates for instance…you see it’s not as straight forward as all carbs are the same so all are bad! We have complex and simple carbohydrates. You see all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars regardless of what form it is in but other factors play a part in how it is used and utilised.
When we consume carbohydrates, they are broken down by the digestive system which breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.
As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.
As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall.
When this happens, the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar.
This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar.
Take white bread, white pasta, white flour, refined sugar, biscuits, cake etc…these are all simple carbohydrates!
Simple carbohydrates are easily and quickly utilized for energy by the body because of their simple chemical structure, often leading to a faster rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion from the pancreas – which can have negative health effects and cause energy slumps, quick drop in blood sugar levels, and fatigue.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand have more complex chemical structures, with three or more sugars linked together (known as oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). These complex carbohydrate foods contain fibre, vitamins and minerals, and they take longer to digest – which means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly and giving us prolonged energy.
Think whole grains, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, vegetables, starchy vegetables are all complex carbohydrates which are packed with fibre that ultimately helps to slow down the breakdown of the sugar molecules and gives less of a peak of blood sugar.
As an example, if you were to eat a highly processed cereal for breakfast which more often than not is filled with sugar, the likely good of your energy levels dipping before lunch is high with most people resorting to a pick me up to keep them going.
Swap the breakfast for a wholegrain oat porridge, pancakes, homemade granola with yoghurt, berries, the complex carbohydrates are broken down much slower, meaning that you won’t get the big peak and then slump of blood sugars and ultimately a more sustained energy throughout the day.
I always encourage my clients to include grains such as quinoa, legumes, pulses which are all rich in carbohydrates, fibre and protein which will help to stabilise blood sugar levels and they won’t make you pile on the pounds…I promise you!
I get many clients that avoid carbohydrates for that reason that they feel they will make them gain weight but as part of a healthy diet, complex carbohydrates can help you to maintain energy levels, help you to avoid raiding the fridge for food when blood sugar levels drop and maintain a good balance with food.
If you are still worried about them, stick to complex carbs in the morning and lunch and lighter meals in the evening or follow my 3,2,1 approach with 3 being your bigger meal at breakfast, going down to 1 which is your evening meal! Or like me it’s a 3,3,3 hahaha
There’s been lots more in the media about fats which have been become a real talking point in regards to cholesterol and heart disease.
But let’s just say, you can’t paint them all with the same brush. Like carbohydrates there are different varieties of fats and I’ll break them down for you.
One form of healthy fats include omega 3 fats found in oily fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel and this type of fat is vital for immune health, brain health, reduce risk factors of heart disease, can help fight depression and anxiety, and improve skin health.
Omega 3 comes in two form DHA and EPA which together help to reduce inflammation within the body and form the healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
Another form ALA found in plant based sources such as hemp seeds, kale, flax, chia seeds isn’t as easily bioavailable and the body has to try and convert it to the active forms of DHA and EPA, which isn’t always as efficient so most is stored within the body.
We also have Omega 6 and 9 fats are which are still important within the body to a certain degree although please bear in mind that omega 6 fats can be if consumed too much be inflammatory within the body and with today’s diets, most people consume far more omega 6 fats than omega 3. Therefore it’s important to get a good balance by making sure to consume more omega 3 rich foods such as at least 3 portions of oily fish a week and include good sources of omega 3 plant based foods each day.
People often avoid fats as they think they will make them fat yet so many studies have shown that diets including the healthiest diet in the world, the Mediterranean diet, that have rich sources of healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, can actually support weight loss, reduce risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Making sure to include nuts and seeds as snacks, use extra virgin olive oil as a dressing for salads, include delicious olives in meals or snacks, and don’t forget the smashed avocado haha.
The fats that you want to avoid are the trans fats that are found in baked good, crisps, fried foods.
Trans fats are mainly formed during hydrogenation, a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to form a semi-solid product known as partially hydrogenated oil.
Studies have linked consumption of trans fats to increased risk of heart disease and inflammation.
Processed foods in general even when thy say low fat have added ingredients to up the flavour so avoid anything low fat, natural fats are not bad for you. Processed, fried and convenience foods are the foods that will cause more harm than good.
Think natural, whole foods with the benefits of nutrients, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats that can nourish us rather than fuel disease.
Stay tuned for part 3 when I talk more about how to eat well.