True or false? Carbohydrate foods are fattening

Grain products are often baked, and are rich s...

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False – Foods containing carbohydrates include starchy foods and sugary foods and drinks. The popularity of low-carb diets such as Atkins have given carbohydrates a bad name, but don’t be misled. Foods such as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta play an important part in a healthy, balanced diet (providing energy) and a low-carb diet can leave us feeling tired, make our muscles feel like lead, or make us grumpy. Choosing healthier types of starchy foods can also be beneficial for digestion, blood glucose control and satiety (feeling full).

In the UK we have easy access to a lot of starchy foods which could the reason that these foods are linked with weight gain. Eating large portions of these foods or having a diet that lacks variety  might mean that we are eating a lot of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, and if we eat too much of any food then we will gain weight. In addition, we often add fats and sugars to these foods – such as butter, creamy sauces, cheese, jam or honey – and these can also contribute to weight gain. I have spoken with many people who say that they avoid sugary foods and drinks but have not realised that eating large amounts of starchy foods could be contributing to their weight gain.

In the UK it is recommended that about 50% of the energy (calories) we eat should come from carbohydrates, with no more than 11% of those calories coming from sugary foods and drinks. For long-term health most of the UK population need to get more of their energy from healthy carbohydrates (bread, cereals and potatoes) combined with sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables and milk and dairy foods. For many adults, including those who are overweight, fibre-rich sources of starchy carbohydrate may help with dietary satiety and weight maintenance or even weight loss.

Please note that young children (under 2 years) and people with high energy requirements but small appetites (like the elderly) may have different requirements for carbohydrates and should look for specific advice (eg: from a Dietitian)

For information about eating a healthy, balanced diet and portion sizes – please refer to the booklet from the Dept of Health called Your guide to the Eatwell Plate

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