They have become regarded as the food of the devil, blamed for weight gain, bloating and even brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

But for many of us, cutting out carbs entirely leaves us tired, hungry, miserable and very often constipated.

So what's the solution?

Here, Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, busts common carb myths - and reveals the smart way to incorporate them into your diet, according to Daily Mail.

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WHAT ACTUALLY ARE CARBOHYDRATES?

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products - and they're our main source of energy.

When it comes to sugars, there are two basic types. Intrinsic sugars are those found naturally in fruits, vegetables and milk.

Extrinsic sugars are those found in table sugar, fruit juice and natural sweeteners such as honey, agave and maple syrup. These are broken down very quickly in the body, causing blood sugar spikes and troughs that can lead to energy slumps, cravings and fat storage.

Starches, made up of many sugar units bonded together, are found in foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.

Fibre is the name given to a range of compounds found in the cell walls of plants. It helps slow the breakdown of carbohydrate foods - preventing blood sugar fluctuations - and has been shown to help reduce the risk of many diseases.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 'GOOD' AND 'BAD' CARBS

The crucial thing to remember is not all carbs are the same.

The key is the amount of fibre they contain. Carbs such as wholegrains (brown rice, oats), pulses (beans and lentils), quinoa, nuts and vegetables are all high in fibre.

It's the carbs that have little or no fibre that are often the issue.

Called refined carbs, they've been stripped of almost all fibre and a significant amount of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals during processing,

A prime example of this is white flour made from refined wheat.

Sugar is also classed as a refined carb and contains no nutrients, which is why it is often referred to as a source of empty calories. Sweeteners, honey, agave and maple syrup also fall into this category.

Refined carbs are bad because they cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels. This leads to large amounts of insulin being produced as the body works to lower the amount of glucose in the blood.

In excess, not only can this encourage weight gain, it may also raise the risk of heart disease and insulin sensitivity, which may ultimately cause type 2 diabetes if left untreated.

WHY THE BAD RAP?

Essentially, all carbs are broken down to become sugar in the end - and it's partly because of this they've become so maligned.

Many of the current diet trends, such as the Dukan, Paleo and Atkins, favour a low carbohydrate approach (less than 50g per day - equivalent to two thick slices of white bread).

Instead, you're advised to eat high quantities of fat and moderate amounts of protein.

The rise in popularity of gluten-free eating has also led to carbs being frowned upon and even considered unhealthy by some.

However, this could not be further from the truth.

It's only in the last few decades have we seen an explosion in obesity.

Other populations around the world also have very good health with low rates of disease - yet and still eat a diet high in carbohydrates, such as Asian communities.

It's highly processed foods rich in refined carbohydrates (plus factors such as excess sugar intake and a lack of activity) - not diets containing healthy portions of unprocessed carbs - that have contributed to obesity and soaring levels of disease associated with it around the world.

Small servings of wholegrains and other high-fibre foods, when eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, are fine.

Research by the Mayo clinic concluded low carbohydrate diets are effective for weight loss - but should only be followed short-term, as the long-term effects of this type of diet are yet unknown.

It also found when compared with a with a traditional low fat diet, the difference in weight loss was small and of questionable clinical significance in the long-term.

So, eating them in moderation is still recommended.

However - and crucially - when we talk about including carbs in your diet, this doesn't mean free rein to load up on large bowls of white pasta or sugar - but switch to moderate portions of high-fibre varieties as part of a balanced diet.

WHY WE NEED CARBS

As a nutritionist, I firmly believe there is no need to cut out carbs from your diet completely.

Unprocessed foods such as brown rice, oats and wholegrain bread provide a good source of nutrients, including much needed fibre. These foods also provide a good base to making many quick and easy to prepare meals as well as being cost effective, especially when feeding families.

They also keep your energy level up and combat fatigue, due to the magnesium, iron and B vitamins they contain.

THE BEST GAME PLAN

As with any diet, the most effective is one that you can stick to - but if you're not prepared to forgo carbohydrates then that doesn't mean you won't lose any weight.

The key is to stick with whole, unprocessed foods and cut back, rather than completely cut out carbs.

Below, I reveal the five of the healthiest varieties - and how to make delicious recipes with them.

TOP FIVE HEALTHIEST CARBOHYDRATE FOODS

Recipes taken from The Detox Kitchen Bible, published by Bloomsbury.

1. QUINOA (COOKED)

NUTRITION

• 180g serving

• 222 calories

• 39.4g carbohydrate

• 8g protein

• 5g fibre

Rich in (more than 30% of the recommended daily amount, or RDA): The energy boosting B vitamins B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate (needed to form healthy red blood cells), iron (a lack of this can cause tiredness), magnesium (for strong bones and energy), zinc (for a strong immune system

WHY EAT IT

Quinoa is a seed and has a higher protein content than many grains. It's full of essential amino acids - the building blocks of protein in the body- making it a great food for people who do not eat animal proteins. The carbohydrate content per serving is lower than many white cereal grains (found in white pasta, for example). It's also high in fibre and this, combined with the high protein content, will keep you fuller for longer - preventing hunger pangs and cravings.

HOW TO EAT IT

You can easily replace rice with quinoa and it can also be thrown into salads, stir-fry's and soups rather than being served as an accompaniment if you are trying to reduce your carbohydrate intake.

RECIPE: QUINOA CASHEW SALAD

Serves 2, 405 calories per serving

INGREDIENTS:

40g cashew nuts

100g quinoa

1 red pepper, seeded and finely diced

50g edamame beans, thawed if frozen

2 celery sticks, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely sliced

10g sultanas

2 fresh chives, finely chopped

A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 tsp rapeseed oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp flaked sea salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

Salt

METHOD:

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Spread the cashew nuts on a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.

Put the quinoa in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with three times its volume of cold water. Bring to the boil. Season the water with salt, then continue to boil for 6-8 minutes until the quinoa is just tender. Drain the quinoa in a sieve and rinse under cold water until completely cool. Leave on one side to drain thoroughly.

Tip the quinoa into a large mixing bowl and add the toasted cashews and the rest of the ingredients. Mix together well. (The salad can be made ahead; keep in the fridge.)

2. PEARLED SPELT (COOKED)

NUTRITION

• 180g serving

• 228 calories

• 46.8g carbohydrates

• 9.9g protein

• 7g fibre

Rich in (more than 30% of the RDA): niacin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper (helps energy production)

WHY EAT IT

Pearled spelt is like barley but cooks in half the time. This grain is slightly lower in carbohydrates than white refined grains but is higher in fibre, keeping your blood sugar stable. It's also rich in B vitamins and magnesium that can help to convert food into energy, warding off fatigue.

HOW TO EAT IT

Spelt makes a great alternative to white rice in dishes such as risotto. You can also add cooked spelt to salads, soups and stews to add a little carbohydrate to your dishes.

RECIPE: SPELT & BEET RISOTTO

Serves 4, 420 calories per serving

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large white onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 medium raw beetroots, peeled and cut into small ½ cm cubes

225g pearled spelt

1 large glass of dry white wine

600ml of chicken or vegetable stock

Small handful of sage, chopped

85g soft goats cheese (optional)

METHOD:

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan.

Add the onion and garlic then cook gently over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Turn up the heat and add the beetroot and spelt then cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir for a minute or so until it has boiled away.

Add the stock and sage leaves then turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 25 minutes until the spelt is tender. You may need to add a little more water as the risotto should be a little wet.

Take off the heat and check for seasoning.

Serves the risotto between four small plates and top with goat's cheese.

3. PINTO BEANS (CANNED)

NUTRITION

• 100g serving

• 160 calories

• 22.8g carbohydrates

• 8.7g protein

• 7.4g fibre

Rich in (more than 30% of the RDA): folate, iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium

WHY EAT THEM

Although beans and pulses are often associated with being a vegetarian source of protein, they're also a good source of 'good' carbs. They contain about half the carb content of white refined grains but more iron, zinc and calcium - invaluable for people who don't eat meat or dairy foods. They're also an extremely rich source of fibre.

HOW TO EAT THEM

You can serve beans and pulses whole by adding them to salads, soups and stews, or mash them to serve as a low carbohydrate accompaniment. They also make great lower carb dips: blend them with root vegetables such as black beans and sweet potato.

RECIPE: PINTO BEAN CHILLI

INGREDIENTS:

For the chili:

200g pinto beans

100g dried black beans

100g dried red kidney beans

1 tsp rapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely diced

2 celery sticks, finely diced

1 red pepper, seeded and finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1/2 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

400g tin cherry tomatoes

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

Chervil, to garnish

Lime wedges, to serve

For the guacamole:

2 avocados

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 fresh green chilli, seeded and roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper

METHOD:

Put all the beans in a large bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse. Tip the beans into a saucepan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion for 10 minutes on a medium heat until lightly browned. Add the carrot, celery and red pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the beans, tin of tomatoes, chilli powder, paprika and 250ml water. Simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile, make the guacamole. Halve the avocados and remove the stone, then scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash roughly with a fork. Mix in the red onion, chilli, lime juice and a pinch of salt.

Season the chilli. Serve in bowls, each topped with chervil and a big dollop of guacamole, with lime wedges for squeezing over.

4. OATS

NUTRITION

• 50g serving

• 160 calories

• 35g carbohydrates

• 6.5g protein

• 5g fibre

This is for oats' dry weight

Rich in (more than 30% of the RDA): thiamin, iron, magnesium and zinc

WHY EAT THEM

This wholegrain makes for a highly nutritious breakfast and contains less carbohydrates than many other breakfast cereals that are often loaded with quickly digested sugars. Oats also contain a greater amount of protein and fibre than many other breakfast cereal options, which work together to help maintain fullness. Even better, they contain a type of soluble fibre known as beta-glucans, which help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body. High in iron, they also help to maintain healthy red blood cell production - warding off fatigue.

5. BUTTERNUT SQUASH

NUTRITION

• 250g serving

• 108 calories

• 24.9g carbohydrates

• 6.4g fibre

• 3.3g protein

Rich in (more than 30% of the RDA): vitamins A, B6, C, thiamin, magnesium, potassium (vital to control the balance of fluids in the body).

WHY EAT IT

Starchy root vegetables such as butternut squash are low in carbs and have the added benefit of being higher in fibre. Brightly coloured root vegetables also count as one of your five-a-day and are rich in phytonutrients such as beta-carotene (found in orange vegetables) that acts as an disease-fighting antioxidant in the body. This group of vegetables also has a higher water content than other carbohydrate foods making it lower in calories.

HOW TO EAT IT

You can roast or mash most root vegetables and those such as squash and carrot can be spiralized to make nice (and far healthier) alternatives to foods such as spaghetti.

RECIPE: CHICKPEA, BUTTERNUT AND POMEGRANATE CURRY

INGREDIENTS:

1 butternut squash

1 tsp coconut oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

A thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated with the skin on

5 curry leaves (preferably fresh)

1 tbsp curry powder

3 cardamom pods

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely sliced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 pomegranate

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

200ml coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime

A handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra leaves to garnish

METHOD:

To prepare the butternut squash, cut the piece in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Cut each half into four pieces, then peel off the skin and discard. Cut the flesh into 1cm-thick wedges or half-moons.

Set a large pan on a high heat and add the oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes. Now stir in the garlic, ginger and curry leaves and cook for 3 more minutes. Mix in the curry powder, cardamom, chilli, 100ml water, the salt and the pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the butternut squash to the pan with 150ml water. Stir well. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranate in half and place the halves cut side down on some kitchen paper. Gently tap them with a wooden spoon until all the seeds have fallen out. You will have to remove some of the skin that has fallen out too. Set the seeds aside.

Add the chickpeas and coconut milk to the curry and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Finally, add the lime juice and chopped mint and stir through. Serve hot, garnished with the pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.