Myths and facts about carbohydrates

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 Carbohydrates are the basis of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Despite their high nutritional value, there are a lot of myths as it has to do with their role in health and weight loss.

Carbohydrates are fattening.

Myth. This myth was created when some diet programmes based on low carbohydrates became popular and commercial during ’90s. Many studies have shown that short term diets low in carbohydrates are more effective in weight loss, but long term both diets low in carbohydrates and those low in fat, seem to be equally effective. Specifically it has been shown that consumption of whole grains has been associated with weight loss and lower risk of weight gain. What is important is the total amount of energy received in the day (calories) rather than the ratio of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fat).

Diets low in carbohydrates long term are not healthy.

Fact. While diets low in carbohydrates seem to significantly improve certain indicators of metabolic syndrome, such as blood lipids and insulin sensitivity, meta-analysis shows that there is no reduction of cardiovascular risk and mortality. The reason is that reduction of carbohydrates normally implies an increase of the animal protein and fat consumption and reduced intake of dietary fibers and minerals.

Only bread and cereals contain carbohydrates.

Myth. Most people believe that carbohydrates are hiding in bread, rice, potatoes and cereals, thus creating an unjustified fear regarding consumption of these foods. However carbohydrates hide in many healthy everyday foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy or cheese products. So, do not unfairly limit cereals and grains from your diet, by replacing them with salads and fruits.

The words “sugar-free” does not mean that it contains no carbohydrates.

Fact. One of the communication tricks of food companies is the use of certain expressions that might mislead someone. The indication that a food product does not contain sugar, does not mean that it has no carbohydrates, but that has not been added sugar in the step of food preparation. Indeed, sugar is a simple carbohydrate, however, there are a couple of natural simple sugars, mainly in the fruits, vegetables and refined products.

Whole grains may not be a choice of a person who wants to control blood sugar levels.

Myth. Although carbohydrates are the key in diabetes management, consumption of whole grain products favors glycemic control and is associated with lower risk of developing diabetes type 2. Specifically, whole grains are higher in fiber content and have lower glycemic index, thus leading to a gradual rise of blood glucose levels and better management or hyperglycemia. s.

   In conclusion we would say that carbohydrates, like all elements of nature, is neither good nor bad. What determines whether they will benefit us, it has mainly to do with the quality of carbohydrates (simple or complex) that are consumed and the nutritional value and source of them (fibers, vitamins, minerals, solubility in the intestine etc.).


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