Written by Talia Cecchele
Founder of TC Nutrition
I feel really sorry for carbohydrates.
Especially at this time of year when dieting and weight loss are on many people's minds as the New Year approaches.
There is a huge misconception that eating carbohydrates leads to weight gain and I'm here to tell you that we need carbohydrates in our diet.
When it comes to nutrition, it is the cooking method not the carbohydrate food itself that we should be considering. Quality and quantity are what is important.
Why should we eat carbohydrates?
Here are 10 reasons why we need carbohydrates in our diet:
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred (and most efficient) energy source
Carbohydrates have a protein-sparing effect meaning that if you have adequate carbohydrates in your diet it protects your muscles from being broken down and used as energy.
Most carbohydrates are high in fibre which promotes gut microbiome diversity, gut health and good digestion. Resistant starches (prebiotics) feed our gut bacteria
Carbohydrate intake is directly linked to improving your mood as it is needed to make serotonin (a.k.a. the happy hormone)
Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin which is the main hormone involved in sleep
Having regular carbohydrates throughout the day helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and regulate appetite
Carbohydrates are extremely versatile to cook with
Some carbohydrates, like wholegrains contain up to 26 different nutrients!
Not eating enough carbohydrates can negatively impact our concentration, memory and performance
Pasta is the most comforting and delicious meal (a little biased here). But in all seriousness, carbohydrates add balance to a meal, are delicious and provide our body with so many important nutrients. We LOVE carbs!
Should I cut out carbohydrates?
With a knife and fork..? Yes!
Fearing certain foods such as carbohydrates or fats is common in our diet culture-focused society. But overcoming fear foods is a crucial step in improving your relationship with food, normal eating and finding food freedom in eating disorder recovery.
If you have an unhealthy relationship with carbohydrates, it is important not to categorise them as "good" or "bad" and instead start to view all food as being neutral. When we demonise carbohydrate foods and try to restrict them, this increases the chance of overeating or binging on them later. Remember that dieting actually leads to weight gain.
What are the best types of carbohydrates?
I recommend choosing wholegrain carbohydrates mostly such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, corn or quinoa, fruit and starchy vegetables like potato. A good starting point is to include 1/4 to 1/3 of your plate with good quality carbohydrates, and try to have a source of carbohydrates with your snacks such as fruit, popcorn or wholegrain crackers.
It is okay to include ultra-processed foods like cakes, biscuits or crisps as part of a balanced diet. Remember that these foods aren't 100% carbohydrates, they usually contain fats and protein too! How much you include these foods in your diet depends on your energy requirements and health goals.
Instead of focusing on what you can't have, focus on what foods you can add to your diet from the core food groups (vegetables, fruit, dairy & alternatives, protein foods and breads & cereals) first. Remember context is key.
If you need support in your eating disorder or disordered eating recovery, we offer 1:1 support at the TCN clinic to help you overcome food rules and find food freedom. You can find out about more about how we can support you here.
Specialist Registered Dietitian & Founder of TCN
Credit: Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán
Talia Cecchele Nutrition is a team of registered dietitians that specialise in eating disorder recovery, disordered eating,digestive issues and sports nutrition. We aim to bring balance back to nutrition, help you to break free from food rules andfind food freedom. We offer virtual consultations and group programs so whether you are based in London, the UnitedKingdom or around the world we would love to support you. To enquire about a private consultation please fill out a contact form.