Myth: Carbs are fattening
Fact: Top among the most common myths around carbs is that you need to give them up in order to lose weight. “Giving up carbohydrates completely, makes you reach for foods higher in sugar as you are denying the body and brain of its natural source of sugar. Carbohydrates are extremely good for the brain and complex carbohydrates contribute to the slow release of glucose in the body ensuring you stay satiated for a longer time. Moderation is essential, but giving it up completely is not sustainable in the long run and can do more damage to the body and gut,” states chef Raveena Taurani, founder of Yogisattva Café. “Carbs don't make you fat! Don't believe it. Starchy carbs such as pasta and potatoes are calorie-dense, but it’s those extra calories that make one fat and not the carbs themselves. Moderation and balance is always the key. Even from an athlete's perspective, their diet will generally have a healthy macronutrient mix of 40-60% carbs, which is used as fuel and the rest are the other two macronutrients. Don't demonise carbs, embrace the fibrous carbs instead!” adds Harman Virk, co-founder and CEO of Oxie Nutrition.
“Most people fear carbs assuming that it makes one gain weight, but the fact is that carbs are equally important as other macronutrients—protein and healthy fat. As your brain uses carbohydrates as the first source of energy, it’s crucial to consume them,” quips Pooja Rajpal, dietician and founder of 62 Vegan Street.
Myth: Carbohydrates are not as important as protein
Fact: Proteins are the building blocks of life. Protein is especially important if you lead an active lifestyle and are regularly working your muscles, but carbs can't be ignored in relation to protein. “Studies have shown that a diet higher in carbs and lower in protein can kick-start the body’s metabolism. Other research has found that protein and carbs work harmoniously to help you process sugar. An important point to note for the ones avoiding carbs due to blood sugar concerns is that eating a combination of protein and veggies before complex carbs can prevent glucose from spiking after the meal,” says Vinita Contractor, holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach.
Myth: There is no fibre in carbohydrates
Fact: Carbs are the major sources of fibre. “Fibre is actually another form of carbohydrates. Fibre-rich foods can help control stomach problems, such as constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar that can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you want to add fibre to your diet, do it very slowly to avoid gas problems. You can start with eating cooked dry beans, peas, and lentils, or leave skins on your fruits and vegetables,” says dietitian Vidhi Chawla.
Contrary to popular belief, and among the most commonly held myths about carbs, this is a much larger food group that goes beyond refined white flour, cakes and pasta. “Many studies, including research from the Harvard School of Public Health, have shown that dietary fibre, which is essentially a type of carbohydrate found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, is necessary to maintain normal weight, a healthy heart, good gut health and for longevity,” adds Vinita Contractor.
Myth: Fruits can be eaten in unlimited amounts, any time of the day
Fact: “Although fruits are packed with micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre, they also contain carbohydrates and hence are a source of energy to the body and add to the total calorie intake. Therefore, it is important to understand that fruits should be eaten in moderation. Also, the best time to eat fruits is as a mid morning meal or as an evening snack, rather than post meals,” remarks Shraddha Gadit, nutritionist and head of department at Gold's Gym Fitness Institute.
Myth: All carbs are created equal
Fact: There are two types of carbohydrates: Simple and complex. “Simply cutting down your carbohydrate intake won't make you lose weight, as your blood glucose levels can fall, making the body crave for an instant carbohydrate source (simple carbohydrates). This in turn can lead to an excess calorie intake resulting in weight gain. However, what matters the most is the type of carbohydrate. Always choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, oats and beans, over simple carbohydrates such as refined wheat flour, white sugar, fruit juices, syrups, cookies, jams, jellies, and others,” says Aman Puri, founder of Steadfast Nutrition.
“Limiting carbs and resisting them will only make you indulge in fatty foods, which are in fact higher in calories. So eating whole grains won't wreck your diet. It’s the unhealthiest refined carbs and the over-eating that you want to avoid,” concludes Shweta Shah, nutritionist and founder of Eatfit247.