We've been feeling guilty about enjoying our carbs for far too long. The macronutrient has been the first point of blame when those extra kilos appear, banned after 6pm and in many cases, shunned from our diets altogether.
But the idea of carbs being bad for us is a commonly held misconception. It is time to free yourself of the guilt and enjoy them. Not all carbs are packed with starchy calories. Healthy carbs are low-GI (glycemic index) and include wholegrains, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables and if you are one of those who neglect them, you're denying yourself some of the most delicious, nutritious and even slimming foods around.
Don't believe us? Check out these top 10 reasons to carry on with carbs:
Keeping you calm
Complex carbohydrates, including wholegrain breads and cereals with oats or other wholegrains, make the brain produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin. This chemical is the feel-good hormone that helps regulate our mood, sleep and appetite. It also helps fight combat pain.
Scoffing a huge bag of Doritos will never be classed as a good health move, but did you know that complex carbohydrates typically contain only four calories per gram? These foods that are naturally high in complex carbs may not be calorie dense but they will keep you feeling full. If you're craving a really satisfying meal create a delicious stir-fry with broccoli, peppers, corn and serve with brown rice.
Full of fibre
Lots of carbs are low in sugar and high in fibre. Insoluble fibre will keep your digestion in check and can prevent constipation. Wheat bran and whole wheat are a great source of fibre. Soluble fibre, which is found in oats, carrots, and apples, helps to decrease the absorption of cholesterol which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels and can control diabetes.
Switch to wholegrain and whole wheat options of your favourite food wherever possible. It's recommended that adult women consume 21 to 25 grams of dietary fibre per day; men should get 30 to 38 grams.
Hunger cravings get to all of us from time to time. A great way to keep this under control is with resistant starch. It's a dietary fibre found in lots of carbohydrates such as potatoes, barley and beans, and is formed when these food are cooked and cooled. A bean salad for example will help stave off cravings between meals. Resistant starch is even believed to protect against certain cancers.
Carbs provide a fantastic source of energy. So much so they are the main source of fuel for your muscles. And more than that, your brain, glands, hormones and heart all rely on a regular flow of this energy to work to their potential. Get rid of an afternoon slump with the likes of hummus and carrot dips or wholegrain crackers and peanut butter.
Carbs supply a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Enriched grains are also a good source of folic acid and iron. As a lot of carbohydrates originate from plants they can also provide a wealth of phytonutrients the chemicals in plants that boost health. Examples of super carbs and their disease-fighting chemicals include spinach, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.