August 26, 2019 7:56 am Leave your thoughts
In one corner, we have the Low-carb celebrities. Their diet is bang on trend right now! Eating low-carb will keep you slim, they promise. It will energise you, stabilize your blood sugar and make you much healthier all round.
In the other corner, we have the High-fibre scientists. They’re not exactly hitting the headlines in the same way. But their diet comes with promises too: it will keep you slim, stabilize your blood sugar, and prevent all manner of horrible illnesses.
There’s a certain similarity between the two – at least in terms of what they hope to achieve. But are the two diets actually in opposition? Is it possible to be both low-carb and high-fibre? And if you had to choose one diet, which would be best?
Let’s look at low-carbing first. This kind of diet focuses on carbohydrates, the nutrient that has the greatest effect in terms of raising blood sugar levels. The processing of carbohydrates requires our bodies to produce insulin, which can lead to swings in blood sugar. As insulin is also a fat storage hormone, an excessive amount of it can result in us gaining weight.
It’s not just celebrities who endorse this diet. Diabetes UK, for instance, is a keen supporter, arguing that the adoption of a low-carb diet helps those with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
On a low-carb diet, you’ll need to eat no more than 130g of carbohydrates per day. Your diet will focus on fruit, vegetables and protein sources and will avoid, as much as possible, processed food, sugar and grains.
It will be worth it, say its advocates, and not just if you’re diabetic. You’ll be better able to control your blood sugar levels, and thus your cravings, allowing you to maintain a healthy weight. You’ll be more clear-headed, they claim, and have much more energy.
High-fibre eating, meanwhile, is all about carbohydrates. Fibre is itself a specific type of carbohydrate (sometimes called ‘roughage’ or ‘bulk’). It’s the part of food that our bodies don’t break down during digestion. It’s found in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Fibre keeps our blood sugar stable, our blood pressure low, maintains healthy cholesterol levels and healthy weight, and prevents digestive and bowel problems. Through these actions, it protects us from heart disease, strokes, diabetes and certain cancers. Scientists agree that it’s a vital part of our diets.
Can you have both?
These two diets appear to be trying to achieve the same overall aim – great health, increased energy, weight loss and stable blood sugar levels. However, the ways in which they plan to reach it differ markedly. Wouldn’t it be the best of all possible worlds if we could have a diet that was both low-carb and high-fibre? Could such a diet even be possible?
According to a review set up to inform World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, the answer is a clear ‘no’. The authors of the review (a comprehensive examination of the role of fibre in our bodies) specifically make the point that high-fibre ingredients are incompatible with a low-carb lifestyle. It’s in the carbohydrates, they point out – things like brown rice, wholewheat flour, oats and other grains – that most of the fibre we need will be found.
But what about fresh fruit and veg, which feature in both diets and are (mostly) both low-carb and high-fibre? Professor Jim Mann from the University of Otago in New Zealand, who led the research, says that while fruit and vegetables are great for fibre, it’s ‘pretty well impossible’ to get enough of this element simply from these. There are other good, imaginative options out there that tick both boxes – flaxseeds, for instance, or high-fibre but low-carb coconut flour – but the scientists remain united in their view that you can’t eat enough of these to cover your essential high-fibre needs.
“It is…worrying that otherwise healthy consumers who try to follow popular diets low in carbohydrate will find it very difficult to achieve a healthy level of fibre intake,” said Dr Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Quadram Institute Bioscience.
What’s the answer?
We’re on the side of the WHO, here. Unless you have a specific medical reason to eat low-carb (and for people with diabetes, this may well be recommended), then we plump for high-fibre every time. But of course, this isn’t a licence to stuff yourself with sugary carbohydrates. Refined, ‘white’ carbohydrates are no good at all for fibre: it’s the wholegrain, wholewheat, wholemeal, unrefined carbohydrates you need to eat, with all their fibrous outer husks, bran and germ retained. You’ll also be able to snack on nuts, seeds and dried fruit to your heart’s content – and continue to pile your plate high with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Eating a diet high in fibre will keep you slim, energise you, keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels stable, and limit your chances of developing diabetes, various cancers, bowel issues, heart disease and strokes. Funnily enough, these are the same benefits that are touted for the low-carb diet, too. Who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it?brown rice, coconut flour, diabetes UK, dried fruit, fibre, flax seed, flaxseed, grains, high fibre, linseed, low-carb, Nuts, oats, Pulses, Quadram Institute Bioscience, Seeds, WHO, whole grains, Wholefoods, wholegrain, wholemeal, wholewheat flour, World Health Organisation
This post was written by Yzanne