There is no such thing as a miracle diet; it is not possible for the human body to function properly if certain nutrients are cut out completely, and according to the NHS, crash diets can often do more harm than good in the long term.
However, this is not to say that reducing your intake of certain food stuffs cannot be beneficial to your overall wellbeing – the key is moderation, and this includes limiting your intake of fat and certain carbohydrates which contribute to weight gain if stored by the body and not used.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three major food groups, known as macronutrients. The others are proteins and fats. Carbohydrates in turn can be broken down into three substances: sugar, starch and fibre.
Examples of natural sugar include those found in fruit, honey and milk. Starch is most commonly found in bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Fibre is present in all foods, but higher in concentrate in vegetables, pulses and wholegrains.
While all play a key role in helping to keep the body functioning, some carbohydrates are more beneficial than others: having plenty of fibre helps to keep the digestive system healthy, while starchy food provides slow release energy, but sugar only provides a short-term release and can also be quickly turned into fat if not used.
It is therefore important to consider the types of carbohydrates you wish to cut down on before embarking on any low-carb plan, to ensure that you are not sacrificing food that is beneficial to your body.
It is also important to remember that protein, fat and carbohydrates all contain calories, so cutting out one of these will not necessarily reduce your calorie intake, contrary to some beliefs1.
The NHS advises that the most effective approach is to reduce the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrate in your diet such as wholegrains, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, legumes and lower fat dairy products.
Many of these can easily replace high-calorie ingredients in certain recipes, providing a healthier alternative without sacrificing taste. We have sourced a few fun recipes that you could try, all substituting the main carbohydrate with a healthier alternative:
Although wholewheat spaghetti is a good source of fibre, consider swapping your pasta fix for strands of courgette or another vegetable. Not only will this save the task of adding vegetables to the Bolognese, it will also help to reduce your starch intake if you normally use regular pasta.
Combat the bloating that an overload of bread can sometimes cause by swapping your burger bun for a giant mushroom. Not only will it increase your fibre intake, it will also leave more room for a healthy dessert without significantly upping your calorie intake.
Butternut squash fries
Although most people enjoy chips as an occasional treat, deep frying a potato and adding salt is far from healthy. Roasting sweet potato is one alternative, but for something even healthier try using butternut squash (which is technically a fruit) and leave the skin on, which can provide added fibre.
Cauliflower pizza base
Like chips, pizza can be a delicious treat, but the combination of dough, oil, meat and cheese is not the healthiest. Substitute one of these by replacing the dough with cauliflower. It simply involves blending the cauliflower then adding cheese and an egg, before spreading it out, adding toppings and cooking in the usual fashion. Replace meat toppings with peppers for a fully vegetarian option.
Lean aubergine toast
If you are a fan of bruschetta toast, you’ll know that it is a delicious appetiser, but it can also be quite filling. Reduce the stodginess and boost the taste factor by replacing bread with aubergine. It is simply a case of choosing a large aubergine and slicing into circular, inch-thick portions, then proceeding with preparation as normal, to create a high-fibre alternative to bruschetta toast.
1 Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/low-fat-diet-not-most-effective-in-long-term-weight-loss/