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Do you really need to ditch the carbs?

For men: what an expert thinks of low-carb diets.

BBQ meal spread, with burgers and turkish bread

With an abundance of carb-phobic messages in the media, the temptation for many is to indiscriminately eliminate carbohydrate foods, including grains.

And ABS data shows that low carbohydrate-diets are more popular for Australian men than women.

One of the key problems with the low-carb or no-carb approach is that although we are getting rid of all those nutrient-poor carbohydrate foods – like cakes, pastries, pies and pizza — we also lose out on the nutrient-rich, quality carbohydrate foods. These include whole grain or high-fibre grain foods, legumes and starchy vegetables. And they provide key nutrients for health, not to mention the fuel we need to get through those tough workouts!

The problem with our diets

The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council ‘2014 Consumption and Attitudinal Study’ showed that only one in 10 young men are making smart carb choices when it comes to grains, with this demographic being the most likely to consume takeaway meals such as burgers, sausage rolls and pizza1.

Not only are these foods higher in saturated fats and salt, they also lack the nutrients we need for health, and may actually increase the risk of obesity and chronic disease over time2.

The study also found that Aussie men have a long way to go to turn around their habits, with two out of five eating less than one serve of whole grain foods each day1 – well short of the three serve per day recommendation.

The simple secret to a healthier weight

What many young men may not realise is that whole grain and high-fibre grain foods have actually been linked to healthier weight measures and a reduced risk of being overweight 3, 4.

Additionally, whilst it may not be a priority today, the benefits of a healthy eating pattern that includes quality grain foods extends beyond ‘shredding’ and may reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers in the long-term2, 5, 6.

It’s time for young Aussie men to ditch unhealthy convenience foods that are holding them back. The evidence shows that eating good-quality carbohydrate grain foods can help to optimise physical performance and health – it’s like putting premium fuel into a high-performance race car.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend six serves of grain foods each day, mostly whole grain or high fibre varieties as part of a balanced diet. Think wholemeal bread, whole grain breakfast cereal, brown rice and whole grain crispbreads. Just watch your portion sizes!

To get yourself off to a healthy start, check out these simple recipes

For more on healthy eating, contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) – they provide practical, tailored advice based on the latest science, and can help motivate and support you to take charge of what you eat. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au

1 GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
2 NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
3 Williams PG, Grafenauer SJ, O'Shea JE. Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutrition reviews. 2008;66(4):171-82.
4 Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364(25):2392-404.
5 Griffiths T. Towards an Australian ‘daily target intake’ for wholegrains. Food Australia. 2007.
6 Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P, Greenwood DC, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Bmj. 2016;353.

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