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10 things you may not know about carbs

Good carbs, bad carbs and everything in between.

1. The Cracker Test

A quick and easy test to do at home to see how many carbs YOU should be eating.

Geneticist, Dr. Sharon Moalem has come up with a really easy test you can do at home to find out how much carbs you should eat. Try chewing on a cracker until it changes in taste to become a bit more sweet, or it may be some other flavour taste. If the taste changes in under 30 seconds then you probably process carbs OK - under 15 seconds is pretty good. But if the cracker hasn’t changed taste after 30 seconds, then Dr Moalam thinks you should be eating a lower carb diet, because your body isn’t as good at processing them, which can lead to weight gain and health problems. How does this test work? Well there’s an enzyme in your saliva breaks down starch into glucose sugar molecules – which is why the cracker can often tastes sweet. Dr Moalam’s theory is that the more of this enzyme you produce, the better you are at processing carbs.

You can turn ‘bad carbs’ into good ones

2. Microwaving and freezing food will turn bad carbs into good ones

You can turn ‘bad carbs’ into good ones - Scientists have discovered that cooking and cooling turns refined ‘bad’ carbs – into resistant starch foods, which your gut bacteria will love! And it’s even better if you re-heat things like pasta, rice and potatoes – and make sure everything, especially the rice, is piping hot - this further increases the resistant starch content. So pop last night’s lasagne into the microwave the next day for a more guilt free way to eat carbs - our bodies only take around half the calories from this food than they do from refined carbs. In effect resistant starch feeds our gut bacteria, rather than us.

3. It’s ok to eat bread!

But switch from mass produced to rye bread - Most mass-produced bread is full of easily-digested starch, which only reaches your small intestine, before dumping glucose into your blood. But Rye Bread uses wholegrains, which contain resistant starch and makes it all the way to your large intestine, where your gut bacteria is waiting. But do check the sugar content, because some mass-produced brands of rye bread add sugar to counteract the bitterness of the wholegrain.

4. The best way to eat bread – toasted straight from the freezer

Take all that unused, mass-produced bread - the 24 million slices we chuck away everyday – and pop them in the freezer. Why? Because just like cooking and cooling, freezing also turns starch into resistant starch. Amazingly, this means that your body gets far fewer calories from the bread. In effect, the resistant starch feeds your gut bacteria, rather than feeding you.

5. Not all carbs are bad

Carbohydrates are one of the ways in which our bodies get energy from food. There are three types – Starch, Sugar and Fibre. There’s a lot of Starch in things like potatoes, flour, rice and pasta. Fizzy drinks, sweets and most processed and refined foods all contain sugar. Both starch and sugar end up as glucose in the blood and are used as energy or stored as fat. But there’s another type of carb – this is dietary fibre. Fruit and vegetables contain fibre, and fibre is a kind of carbohydrate that releases energy very slowly, it’s very good for our guts and so stuff like this doesn’t tend to make us fat.

Not all carbs are bad

6. Swapping your ‘bad’ processed carbs for ‘good’ carbs containing more resistant starch and your chances of avoiding bowel cancer go up to a whopping 30%!

Most of the starch that we eat is digestible, about 95% of it. But there is a small fraction that gets through to the large intestine where it can then be acted on by gut bacteria, and that’s what we define as resistant starch. Resistant starch can travel through the body surviving the stomach – until it reaches the bowel, feeding bacteria in the gut which in turn produces chemicals that prevent us getting diseases such as bowel cancer.

7. Refined carbs contribute to increasing rate of Diabetes

There’s been a worrying increase in the number of people becoming resistant to insulin, causing poor blood sugar control, which can ultimately lead to type 2 Diabetes – and often a lifetime of medication. Over three and a half million people in the UK live with Type 2 Diabetes and 90% of them are overweight or obese. It’s been called the hidden killer because over half a million have yet to have it diagnosed. Many doctors and scientists think this disease is on the increase in part because of the type and quantity of carbs we’re eating.

8. A low carb diet can help turn your Type 2 Diabetes around

Rather than prescribing more and more pills, we can make people healthier by reducing the amount of the beige and white carbs and increasing the green. Research has shown that cutting out the bad carbs reduces HBA1C levels – the key determinant for a diabetic. Keeping up a low carb diet can eventually reverse the disease.

9. Recent research shows that over consumption of refined ‘Bad’ carbs can lead to problems with fertility

Grace Dugdale, a reproductive biologist, runs a programme looking at the underlying causes of infertility in both women and men. She says making a new human being is an energetic process, there’s a whole new person being created and the components of that – the egg and the sperm – both need good energy. If you have a poor diet, that really starts to disrupt that process and all the processes that are needed to successfully conceive a child. Grace is using a low-carb diet to help couples become more reproductive and also help women manage their health as they progress through pregnancy.

10. Too many of the wrong carbs could affect your ability to create new life, but you could also you be passing on your health problems to your children – because these carbohydrates may be altering your genes

There is growing research in this area to suggest that male factor problems can be passed on to the next generation, through the modification of genes resulting from our damaging lifestyle. Basically what you do before you’re conceived impacts your lifetime’s predisposition to disease and there’s an impact both through the father and the mother. So lots of people think it’s just about the women, but there can be changes in the sperm as well that also impacts the health of the child. There are thousands of genes modified in the sperm of obese men.