As we build towards the main fitness event of this and indeed any year, namely the New Year Resolution to become fit, fitter or the fittest you have ever been. We continue our examination of nutrition, in an effort to debunk as many of the myths and untruths, which surround this subject.
Our goal? Simple; to help people to understand that the right nutrition and diet is 65% of any successful exercise plan or programme. Exercise alone will NOT make the difference most people seek.
For some reason, the mainstream media likes to hone in on a particular macronutrient as the root of all of the world's health problems.
Back in the 1990s, fat was the dietary devil. Now, it seems, carbs are enemy number one.
Ask anyone these days how to lose weight and they'll probably give you the same answer.
"Cut out the carbs, man."
Low carb diets are now everyone's weapon of choice when it comes to slashing the fat - but is it really necessary?
The short answer is, definitely not.
Granted, there are some carbs that are probably better off left out of your diet. But that doesn't mean that they're all evil.
Just like when it comes to healthy and unhealthy fats, the key is to learn which carbs we should and shouldn't be eating. As with most things in life it's about achieving the right balance and avoiding the polar extremes a number of so called, self-appointed experts, would have you believe that's what you need to do.
Besides, a world without carbs isn't much fun, is it?
Here are nine delicious carbs that won't make you fat - how many are you already eating?
#1 - Sweet Potatoes
The last few years have seen sweet potatoes transition from an exotic tuber served only at fancy dinner parties, to a staple ingredient in the nutrition plan of almost every high performance athlete on the planet. And there's a reason that so many of us are now chowing down on sweet potatoes. Packed with antioxidants, beta carotene, potassium, vitamin c and soluble fibre; the health benefits of these bright orange spuds are undeniable.
With a low GI and a high fibre content, eating sweet potatoes won't make you put on weight. Providing you are active and are burning off glycogen on a regular basis, consuming sweet potatoes regularly will only serve to enhance your performance.
#2 - White Potatoes
Sweet potatoes might be more famous for their health benefits, but that doesn't mean you should fear the humble white potato. The classic spud actually contains fewer calories, less sugar and more protein per gram than it's orange counterpart - so there really is no reason to avoid them.
Furthermore, cooking and cooling white potatoes converts some of the starch molecules into resistant starch - a type of carbohydrate that isn't converted into glucose, but instead acts as a prebiotic fibre to help maintain a healthy digestive system. Depending on how long they are cooled for, preparing your potatoes this way lowers the total carbohydrate content from anywhere between 16 and 33%. How's that for food science?
#3 - Bananas
Bananas are rich in prebiotic fibre and pectin, both of which are crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system. They are high in B vitamins, which help to maintain healthy energy levels, as well as tryptophan, an amino acid that has been shown to improve mood. Bananas are also a fantastic source of potassium, which helps to relieve water retention and keep you looking even leaner.
The less ripe the banana, the lower the glycemic index (GI) - so try to eat them whilst they are still yellow or even with a slight green-ish pigment.
#4 - Berries
Berries contain more nutrients and less sugar per gram than almost all other fruits, so should always be your number one choice for smoothies and snacking. Enjoy berries of all different colours for a wide range of antioxidants.
#5 - Winter Squash
Squashes are at their best at this time of year. And at roughly half the calories per cup of squash compared to sweet potato, you'd be mad not to add them to your diet. Step outside the comfort zone of plain old butternut and try some different varieties whilst they're in season; acorn, crown, hubbard, and kabocha squashes are all delicious.
#6 - Black Beans
Black beans are much more than just carbs. With 12grams of protein and 9g fibre per cup, these tiny titans of nutrition can be your dietary shortcut to a lean, chiselled physique.
What's even more impressive are the results of a 2013 study by The British Journal of Nutrition, which showed that regular consumption of black beans significantly reduces your risk of colon cancer!
#7 - Lentils
Just like beans, lentils are packed with protein and fibre that digests slowly and won't spike your blood sugar. They're also extremely satiating, which will keep you fuller for longer.
If eating beans or lentils causes you any sort of digestive discomfort or wind, try soaking them first before you cook them.
#8 - Quinoa
Pronounced "keen-wah", quinoa has become a bit of a hipster delicacy over the past few years. It's not surprising, really, given the high iron content and the fact it has a complete amino acid profile; both of which are great news for muscle building. Remember, the more muscle you have, the faster your body burns fat. Adding a side of quinoa to your meals is a great way to stay lean and get a satisfying hit of carbs at the same time.
#9 - White Rice
This one may surprise you, as we're often told to ditch the white rice in favour of the much less appetising brown stuff. And whilst brown rice may have more nutrients on paper, it also has a very high content of a compound called phytic acid, an 'anti-nutrient' that binds to minerals in the digestive tract and stops your body from absorbing them.
In other words, the presence of phytate renders almost all the nutrients in brown rice obsolete - leaving little difference (nutritionally speaking) between brown and white.
If you're active and burning through glycogen regularly, white rice is a tasty and convenient source of carbohydrates. If you're concerned about the GI value of white rice, consider cooking and cooling it before eating. Just like potatoes, this converts some of the starch molecules into resistant starch, giving your blood sugar much less of a spike when you chow down.
Remember, carbs are not the enemy!
In a healthy, balanced diet, carbohydrates play an important role. Just remember to eat more of the good ones and less of the refined ones such as sugar and flour!