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Mind & Body

Why you don’t need to be cutting out carbs

Carbs get a bad rap, but the science is sketchy. DANIELLE FOX reports on whether bread should be back on the menu

Beauty

These days, it’s hard to be sure what a healthy diet actually entails. Whether you want a leaner waist, flatter abs, clearer skin, a calmer gut or more energy, the message for the last decade has been about denial – and if there’s one thing that’s top of the no-go list, invariably it’s carbs. The Atkins diet is mostly to blame for this, but even those who aren’t on a strict dietary regimen tend to curb carbs for their pre-vacation prep or a big event, the premise being: cut carbs and drop pounds. According to the experts, however, it is not about whether or not you should eat carbs, but rather when you eat them.

The best time for carbs…

It has previously been thought that carbs should be eaten at the start of the day so that the body has longer to burn the glucose. While this cemented the ‘no carbs after 6pm’ rule, there’s no science behind it. “Many people believe the metabolism slows down in the evening, so eating carbs at night will cause them to gain weight,” says London-based nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. “But the truth is your metabolism never switches off – even though we physically and mentally tend to slow down in the evening, your body continues to burn energy 24/7.”

A new study has even suggested that saving your carb intake for the evening could actually be beneficial. According to an Israeli study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, eating carbs in the evening causes less dramatic blood-sugar spikes than carb-loading at breakfast. It seems that being consistent with our carb eating habits and adding a small amount to all meals is the best thing we can do for our bodies.

Which are the healthiest carbs to eat?

Pasta and potatoes are easy to identify as carbs, but much of what we eat is a carbohydrate, including milk, butter and fruit, surprisingly. Kalinik advises steering clear of processed, simple carbs (white pasta, white bread and muffins) and to be wary of those masquerading as ‘healthy carbs’ like sugary granola bars – as a rule of thumb, stay well away from anything that has more grams of sugar than fiber or protein.

Instead, fill your plate with slow-burning, unprocessed whole foods such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, legumes, milk, bulgur wheat, grains (always soak for at least 12 hours so it’s easier on the digestion and helps to access more of the nutrients), yoghurt, fruit in moderation and vegetables such as sweet potato. So, what about bread? “Think about what type of bread you’re eating – a lot of ‘bread’ isn’t bread; chances are it’s refined, processed and treated using manufactured yeast in bulk,” says Kalinik. “Choose quality, artisan bakery bread such as fresh sourdough or rye,” she advises. It’s time to bring back the (artisan) bread basket.

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