The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation say we should be increasing our intake of starchy foods to give us a nutritious energy boost.
But an NOP survey released last week shows that people keen to keep trim are shunning starchy foodstuffs because they think it will make them fat.
Nearly 60 per cent of women wrongly believe eating carbohydrates will make them put on weight, and many people are unable to identify which types of food actually contain carbohydrates. In fact, government health advice is for people to increase their intake of bread, pulses and cereals so that 50 per cent of all energy is obtained from carbohydrates.
Trish Tweed, of the Health Education Authority, said: "It's a popular misconception that carbohydrates are bad for you, and people tend to think that starchy food is fattening. But it actually contains less fat than people think.
"At least half the main part of a meal should be starchy, so we are advising people to get their energy from carbohydrates rather than fat."
Government public health targets are aiming to cut the proportion of energy obtained by eating fatty foods from its present level of 40 per cent by encouraging people to eat more starch-based food.
Professor Peter Aggett, head of the Lancashire Post-Graduate School of Medicine and Health, said. "The problem is the fault of advice generated 30 years ago when the common belief was that bread and potatoes are bad for you. We now know that, ideally, we would like people to get most of their energy from carbohydrates, so we need to reduce the proportion we receive from fat."