What are ‘fast carbs’ and why might be a danger to your iso diet?

Eating lots of carbs during #iso? Dietitian Melissa Meier dishes on which – fast or slow – carbohydrates to avoid. 

In diet culture, there’s no worse crime than eating carbs – but as a dietitian, I’ve got a different opinion. You see, all carbs are not created equally. There’s a big difference between the carbohydrates found in sweet potato and the carbohydrates in a Mars Bar. It’s the type of carbohydrates you choose to consume that has the biggest big impact on the healthfulness of your diet, not the inclusion of carbohydrates altogether.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what you need to know…

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

What are smart carbs?

Let’s get one thing straight: carbohydrates are not the devil in disguise. They can be a perfectly healthy component of a perfectly healthy diet. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

When it comes to carbs, you want to focus on choosing those that are slow-burning (AKA low GI). These foods are gradually digested, so your blood sugars gently rise and fall rather than going on a bumpy rollercoaster ride. This provides long-lasting energy, improves concentration and helps you to feel energised.

Balancing your blood sugars can also help to curb cravings – so when you’re cooped up inside all day, low-GI carbs might just be your secret weapon to resisting the biscuit jar (or chocolate block or ice cream tub or packet of lollies in the pantry…).

You can probably guess the foods you’ll find smart carbs in: sweet potato, wholegrain bread, rolled oats, bananas, chickpeas… you get the drift. Essentially, if you opt for starchy veggies (aside from white potatoes) and wholegrain foods, you’ll be on the right track when it comes to carbs.

What are fast carbs?

You don’t necessarily have to avoid fast carbs, but for your health (and your waistline) it’s best to choose slow carbs the majority of the time. Fast carbs (AKA quick release or high GI carbs) are digested rapidly, so they spike your blood sugars, which then quickly come crashing down.

This leaves you feeling dissatisfied and hungry soon after, so you’ll reach for more food. If you continue to opt for fast carbs, this cycle can repeat itself over and over again, meaning you’ll eat far more food than if you were to opt for more satisfying nosh.

Foods like white potato, white bread, sugary breakfast cereals, rice crackers, soft drink, lollies, cake, doughnuts, biscuits and jam contain fast carbs. It’s easy to see that foods containing fast carbs typically aren’t the healthiest, so it’s no surprise they should be consumed in moderation anyway (read: not every single day during isolation).

There’s a misconception that these foods cause diabetes, but that’s not exactly true. One of the main risk factors of type two diabetes is being overweight, and of course, many of the above-mentioned fast carbs could contribute to weight gain if consumed in large quantities. Over time, consuming these foods excessively (in conjunction with doing little physical activity) can deteriorate metabolic and cardiovascular health, which isn’t good news.

The verdict on carbs

Let me reiterate: carbohydrates are not innately bad for you. There’s a plethora of better-for-you carbs that I’d encourage you to include in your diet, like wholegrains, fruit and starchy veg. These foods are cornerstone to good health and provide a range of health benefits. For the most part, limit fast carbs – but rest assured, all foods fit into a healthy, balanced diet, and there’s nothing wrong with consuming fast carbs every now and then.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.