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The Truth about carbs

My review on one of the BBC's latest documentary

The BBC recently released a documentary called “The truth about carbs”.

The documentary is presented by a medical doctor who looks at the facts and fallacies surrounding carbohydrates. On the whole, the film raises some good points when it comes to carbohydrates especially that people are consuming too many refined carbohydrates and they should be focusing on the quality of carbohydrates more than the quantity.

This documentary is not as sensationalized as many of the other health films on the market although there are moments where I feel more explanation or detail is needed or generalisation does occur. As with most health documentaries they tend to focus on one nutrient and not a whole diet approach and often advise cutting out one or more food group which I don't agree with.

My brief overview of the film

1. It gives a good introduction of the types of carbohydrates out there and how carbohydrates affect our bodies.  Carbohydrates are not evil. They are our bodies preferred fuel source, the issue is that people are consuming too much and the wrong types. In the film they categorize carbohydrates as beige carbs, white and green carbs. I do feel that this is too simple of an explanation as it conveyed the message that only fruit and vegetables are green carbs when  there are a lot of other nutrient rich slow releasing “green carbs” and even healthy option "beige carbs". By removing some of these foods we can reduce our intake or many vitamins and minerals

2. Cracker test: The presenter does a test with individuals to show the amount of amylase they have in their mouth as a measure of how much carbohydrate one can eat. Although I do know that there is amylase present in one’s mouth and it is responsible for getting the ball rolling when it comes to digesting starchy foods, I haven’t come across enough science/research around this test . We all have different amounts of digestive enzymes in our body but this doesn’t give one permission to then not worry about carbohydrates and go overboard.

3. There is a scene where they use sugar cubes to show how much sugar is in food and I think that scene may be misinterpreted by the public. The sugar in the cubes represents the amount of sugar in the form of glucose that is broken down once the food is ingested  and not added sugar such as table sugar. A bowl of rice was shown to contain 20 blocks of sugar. This means that once it is consumed there is 20 sugar cubes worth of glucose in our body and that is where the problem is if we consume too much carbohydrate at one meal. Although this is great to show the quantity of carbohydrate in meals so the public must be aware of portion sizes, it doesn't show us the effect various carbohydrates have on our body and this is where we must focus on the type of carbohydrate.

4. It’s not low carb it smart carb: I like that in some parts of the documentary the presenter refers to the way we should be consuming as a smart carb diet. I feel low carb diet can be confusing  to individuals, what does low actually mean because everyone's version of low might be different and how much is low as 20% could be low but 40% could also be low as that is below the general guidelines of 45-65% of the diet . Smart carb means we can still consume them we just need to be clever about choosing the right ones.

5. As with a lot of these health films , they focus on a particular nutrient or food group and not a whole diet approach. If one follows a low carb diet this means we would be elevating our intake of other nutrients to compensate which could bring additional health problems. Health films need to find a way to translate nutrition messages into more practical advice e.g  how to follow a smart carb diet along with lean sources of protein and healthy fats.

Overall  I do agree with the overall message of the documentary that we need to be focusing on the including the right types of carbohydrates in our diet however I don’t promote a low carb diet or restricting or cutting out food groups . The documentary can definitely help raise awareness of how to follow a smart carb diet but there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to diet. We don’t need to follow a low carb diet but rather a smart carb diet. We can still include high fibre, low GI starchy foods, fruit and vegetables and dairy but with all food groups we have to mindful of the amount and  quality. Health films need to provide us with health information but support it tips on how to practically apply it to our diets.

You can find the link to the documentary here

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