Carbs - Villain or Victor?

There I was walking down the street, on my way to a leading stationery shop to purchase some envelopes. Imagine my surprise as I pass the cook book section to find not one, not two but five different low carb recipe books available at first glance, plus a blood group diet book thrown in for good measure.

The sheer volume of products supporting one common trend is enough to confuse the strongest of consumers, let alone trained nutrition professionals.

You may have looked at the title of this piece and rolled bit of eye and I’m not saying that it isn’t justified- this topic seems almost archaic, yet I have noticed that there still is a lot of confusion around it. I often encounter clients excluding carbs at dinner to facilitate weight loss only to later dip into the cookie jar.

Thus the reason for my writing this piece.

When has the low carb trend become so overwhelming in our society? And what is it all based on? For one thing, it is not based on overwhelming scientific fact, proven to be very effective in terms of longevity.

There is substantial evidence suggesting that a Mediterranean diet is optimal due to the low risk of cardio vascular disease.

“In fact, a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality.

The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.”

What does the Mediterranean diet include you may ask? Well, it is a mostly plant based diet consisting of whole grains a.k.a. good quality carbs, legumes (carb containing), nuts, vegetables (many carb containing) and substantial amounts of olive oil with the occasional glass of red wine (carb containing). It is also recommended that we cook with spices and herbs instead of salt, use red meat and sugar rarely and enjoy food with family and friends.

Not convinced yet? Very well. Let’s look at the Asian population. The Japanese are well known for their longevity. As we all know diet isn’t the only contributing factor when it comes to longevity but it absolutely lays a large role. Carbs make out the biggest portion of the traditional Japanese diet.

It must be said that not all carbs were created equal. We certainly can’t compare sugary biscuits, donuts and sweets with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and starchy vegetables. There is no disputing that we all should aim to reduce refined carbohydrates from our diets.

Looking at these facts, can we truly criminalise the common carbohydrate as we have been for the past few years? Maybe we should consider going back to basics yet not over simplify nutrition by harshly sentencing a food group as a whole.

1 THOUGHTS ON “Carbs - Villain or Victor?”

by Danie Viljoen

Hi Lize
Very true, balanced meal with proper portion size. But carbs is not carbs is not carbs…. refined carbs , added sugar and sugary fizzy drinks is playing a major role in the global obesity pandemic! And remember fat do protect against cancer but who is pushing that except old Tim?