Are carbs REALLY as bad as they’re made out to be?

Clinical nutritionist and Sunrise regular Sarah Di Lorenzo discusses navigating a diet – with carbs – for better health.

We’ve been told to avoid them like the plague if we have any chance of maintaining a healthy weight, but are carbs really the super-villain they’re made out to be?

Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, clinical nutritionist and Sunrise regular Sarah Di Lorenzo says that we have wrongly been painting all carbs with the same brush.

“Carbohydrates are an important food group that need to be included in a healthy diet. They’re one of our macronutrients,” she tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode Are carbs REALLY that bad?

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“A macronutrient includes things like fats, protein and carbs…The role of a carbohydrate is to give us an energy source.”

Ok, so if they’re so important, why have we always seen them as a personified version of Cruella De Vil?

It comes down to the fact that we group all carbs together, when they actually come in two different types – simple and complex. Simple carbs are things like white rice, white pasta, white bread, lollies, cakes and biscuits. We don’t even need to say it, but obviously these are the carbs that are on the discretionary shopping list.

However, there’s another type of carbs, complex carbs, which should in fact be on your ‘must purchase’ list.

“Complex carbohydrates are the ones we talk about when we say healthy carbohydrates. They’re the ones we need to include in our diet,” Di Lorenzo explains.

“That’s foods like brown rice, fruits, vegetables, legumes and good quality healthy breads.”

She explains that these wholegrain, wholefood complex carbohydrates contain a starch, a sugar and a fibre, and it’s the fibre we need for all the amazing health benefits they provide.

She also adds that diets such as the ketogenic diet, which see people shed major kilos by cutting almost all carbohydrates have led us in the wrong direction when it comes to this food group.

“People have kind of grouped all of the simple and complex together and just kind of palmed it off as ‘one’, and which is why carbs have been demonised,” she says.

But what else can complex carbs add to our lives, we hear you ask?

“Other than utilising them as a source of energy, we need them for our gut health. They’re really important for a healthy bowel function. Also, very important for things like lowering your risk of heart disease.”

Di Lorenzo explains that when you have a healthy diet, excess cholesterol gets dumped into the bowel to be eliminated, but without enough good quality fibre from the complex carbohydrates in your bowel, the cholesterol will be absorbed back into the blood stream and elevate your levels.

The same process happens with excess hormones, which is why not enough good fibre can lead to what she calls ‘hormone dominance’.

Finally, complex carbs in fruits, dairy and vegetables contain a whole host of vitamins and minerals essential for bodily function – including magnesium and calcium.

So – how can you bring healthy carbohydrates into your life?

Sarah Di Lorenzo has specially crafted a diet designed to include healthy carbs whilst still maintaining ketosis for weight loss.

“There’s the keto diet that we very commonly and famously, know – I’m not referring to that whatsoever. I’ve created a healthy diet called the 10:10 diet, which also will help the body fat burn,” she says.

“For me, healthy weight loss is not about losing just weight, healthy weight loss is about only taking fat off the body. To take fat off the body and preserve muscle that we love and body fluids, you need to put the body into ketosis.”

She says she cannot condone the rules of the keto diet, which rule out fruit, because she views these food groups as essential to our wellbeing.

“That is criminal to deprive the body of that kind of thing [fruit]. In the 10:10 diet, I still make an allowance for the carbohydrates to sit around 30 to 50 grams a day. So I still have some fruit in there. I pick really high fibre vegetables and fruits like berries, which are a lot higher in fibre and a lot lower in the carbohydrate content,” she says.

“I’ve worked out the fine line of having beautiful, delicious, healthy, complex carbohydrates to a point where you can still be in ketosis and still be healthy.”

Follow Sarah on Instagram @sarah_di_lorenzo, or for info on her new book, The 10:10 Diet, click here

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