What you need to know before you ditch carbs
THE backlash against carbohydrates has struck again.
A major new study suggested cutting fat out of your diet may not be as good for you as conventional wisdom suggests but the conclusions being jumped to are misleading.
After tracking the eating habits of more than 135,000 participants over a seven-year period, across 18 countries, researchers found that those with the highest intake of dietary fat (35% of daily calories) were associated with a lower risk of death.
While those with the highest intake of carbs (77% of daily calories) were more likely to have died than those with the lowest intake.
Does this mean that carbohydrates are sending us to an early grave?
Before you ditch the bread, pasta and potatoes, turns out the findings of this study are actually fairly consistent with what we already know.
The study is not so much an endorsement of low-carb diets, but only a question mark on very high carbohydrate consumption.
Nutrition Scientist, Dr Tim Crowe and founder of Thinking Nutrition reports we're hardly killing ourselves slowly with a high carbohydrate diet.
"In Australia, we sit at 43.5 per cent energy from carbohydrate. But unfortunately, a lot of those carbohydrates are highly refined and we have too much added sugar in our diet. To add to this, only 6 per cent of us eat enough vegetables each day" adds Crowe.
Current dietary guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend a low-fat diet (less than 30% of calories) with less than 10% coming from saturated sources (such as butter, full-fat dairy and takeaway foods), and a carbohydrate intake between 55 and 75 per cent of daily intake with less than 10% of free sugars.
The researchers stress the study is not advocating a low carb or high fat diets. "The best diets will include a balance of carbohydrates and fats - approximately 50-55 per cent carbohydrates and around 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated fats," says leader author, Dr Mahshid Dehghan.
"My hope is that our results will stop the whole population from feeling guilty if they eat fat in moderation," said Salim Yusuf, another author on the study.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CUT CARBS
Carbs are brain food providing the glucose our brains need to function at its peak. Run low, your brain will turn to mush and you won't remember where you put your keys. They're also essential for exercising muscles, delaying the onset of fatigue.
Not all carbs are created equal and often they get lumped into one group: Different types of carbs have different effects of health. Processed carbs come laden with processed fat, salt and added sugar, and are often void of fibre, which won't fill you up for long.
Instead of ditching, switch to wholegrain (brown rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt or polenta), along with fruits, beans and vegetables.
Such a dietary pattern does not need to limit total fat intake, but the main types of fat should be from unsaturated plant sources (avocado and nuts), rather than animal fat, including processed meats.
Kathleen Alleaume is a nutrition and exercise scientist and founder of The Right Balance