When it comes to eating well, it often seems like you just can't win: red meat might cause cancer, but it does provide you with iron. Eggs are full of cholesterol, which is bad, but actually, they're also full of vitamins and proteins, which are good. Fish is packed with essential oils, but it might also contain mercury, which will slowly poison you from the inside out.
Among the most controversial food groups as a whole are carbohydrates, which any keto fan will tell you are a deliciously tasty enemy of the waistline, but some experts are now saying are crucial to a healthy diet and even to successful weight loss.
Not gonna lie keto-ers, this plate looks great, but it's just calling for a tasty slice of granary bread, slathered in butter.
If you've ever tried to give up carbs completely, you'll know just how difficult it is - mainly because they're comforting, cheap, and go so well with everything. All it takes is one whiff of a bakery on your way to work, and you're off the low-carb train all over again. *Sigh*
But the good news for those who often give in is that for some people there might actually have a genetic escape card.
According to a new BBC documentary, The Truth About Carbs, some can process them more easily than others. So, are you one of the lucky ones? Here's how to find out.
First, take a cracker - but resist the temptation to put cheese on it!
Instead, you're going to eat it dry (stay with me here, you can have the cheese afterward if you really need to). In the meantime, to show that I have empathy here's a visual representation of just how dull dry crackers are:
Now, start munching on your boring, boring cracker.
Eventually, the taste should change from boring and bland to quite sweet. What's crucial here is the time it takes to make the shift - essentially, if your body processes carbs effectively then this should take less than 30 seconds, in which case congratulations, enjoy your big bowl of pasta.
However, any longer than this and you might want to consider keeping the carbs to a minimum.
Don't worry, all hope isn't lost though, because carb-processing is a sliding scale.
If the sweetness hits you within the first 14 seconds, then you can probably put away a good 250g of carbs a day, which is equivalent to approximately four slices of wholewheat bread. If it's closer to 15 to 30 seconds, then you can be working on the basis of 175g of carbs a day, which is around three and a half slices of wholewheat bread.
However, if it takes more than 30 seconds, then you're going to need to cut it back to just three slices, or 125g, a day.
At least you can console yourself with the knowledge that this is still way more than the keto-quota of just 20g, and that you can still make a pretty solid looking platter out of cheese and meats. If anyone asks, just add a few tomatoes and call it your "Mediterranean diet".
Not so fast before scoffing those croissants though carb-queens (or kings), because there's also a big difference between "good" carbs and "not-so-good" carbs, owing to the fact that they contain totally different properties.
This is most clearly represented by the split between 'white' carbs, such as white bread, and 'green' carbs, such as fruit and veg or lentils, with the latter group containing resistant starches which cannot be easily digested by the body but feed the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The other carbs pretty much just raise your blood sugar levels.
And if you're committed to having white bread in the morning, there are a few sneaky hacks to make your carbs a teeny bit healthier.
For example, try toasting it while it's still frozen; the freezing process turns the simple starches in it into resistant starch, which means your body absorbs fewer calories.
Similarly, your pasta is actually probably better for you once it's been reheated as the cook-cool-cook process also transfers the carbs into resistant starch.
Crackers or no crackers, it seems like the best thing you can do is make sure you've got balance right which means keeping your carb intake within reason most of the time, but also giving into that tasty crusty roll once in a while. After all, what is life without a little rule breaking now and then?