There's a common misconception that carbohydrates make you fat. But the truth is they don't. They just get all of the bad PR.
Yes, if eaten in unnecessarily large quantities, they could contribute to weight gain, but then again, so could too much of any food. In fact, carbohydrates are a healthy addition to your diet, and we are not just talking about the tasteless complex carbs either.
The poor defenceless carb may well be the black sheep of the food family but the facts say otherwise. We are not suggesting for a second that you tweak your balanced diet for a gut-busting mix of Dominos and Mickey Ds, but it is worth knowing that carbs are not the work of the devil after all.
Here are six reasons to keep carbs in your diet.
Carbs are actually good for your heart
Research suggests that increasing your soluble-fibre intake (a type of fibre found in carb-rich foods like oatmeal and beans) by a mere 5-10g each day could result in a 5pc drop in "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Similarly, people who eat more wholegrains (think brown rice, oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa) also tend to have lower LDL cholesterol and higher "good" HDL cholesterol.
Carbs can help prevent weight gain - and even promote weight loss
Believe it or not but researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah followed the eating habits of middle-aged women for nearly two years and found that those who increased their fibre intake generally lost weight - and women who decreased the fibre in their diets gained pounds.
Many carbohydrates contain dietary fibre, which is actually an indigestible complex carbohydrate. So the next time you devour the last bit of garlic bread, don't beat yourself up over it. Just quote the good people at Brigham and you'll be guilt free. Almost.
Carbs can boost mood
Researchers believe that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical.
In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very low-carbohydrate diet for a year - which allowed only 20-40g of carbs daily (think the amount in just ƒ cup of rice plus one piece of bread) experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet that focused on low-fat dairy, wholegrains, fruit and beans.
Carbs will help you trim your waistline
Swapping refined grains for wholegrains may help reduce total body fat and belly fat, according to research in the Journal of Nutrition. The journal published a study, in which adults who ate about three servings of wholegrains a day had about 2.4pc less body fat and 3.6pc less abdominal fat than those who ate less than a quarter of a serving.
Carbs will keep your memory sharp
After overweight women followed a 'low-carb' diet for a week (they were told to completely eliminate carbohydrates from their diets), they did worse on tests of working memory (ie. why did I walk into this room?), and visuospatial memory (remembering locations on a map) than their counterparts who followed a 'low-calorie' diet, based on American Dietetic Association guidelines, in a study from Tufts University.
I'm not great at maps at the best if times, so if it helps with that then it's time to load up on some carbs.
Carbs will help you blast fat
Eating a breakfast made with 'slow-release' carbs, such as oatmeal or bran cereal, three hours before exercise may help burn more fat, according to a study from the Journal of Nutrition.
Here's why: in a study, eating 'slow-release' carbs didn't spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates, such as white toast. In turn, insulin levels didn't spike as high and because insulin plays a role in signalling your body to store fat, having lower levels may help you burn fat.
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