We are often told to eat a balanced diet covering all the food groups but are also told to reduce our carb intake. So what are carbs and what can be the problem with them?
Essentially carbs are the sugars and starches which provide us with energy.There are three main types of carbohydrate-sugar, starches and fibre. They are one of the main food groups, but in recent years they have become controversial. This is because modern food processes have changed the way we consume and process carbohydrates.There are two different types of carbs-simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest ,simple sugars. They are quickly absorbed by our bodies. Energy is released but is then used up very quickly. Carbs that sit in this category include processed foods like white sugar, white bread and pasta.
These take longer for the body to break down as they are chemically speaking made up of longer chains of sugar molecules. They are found in vegetables, whole grain breads and rice and brown pasta.The energy that is released tends to be longer lasting.
We need to eat carbs for energy. The human body can get energy from protein and fat but the advice is to eat some carbs every day but as long as it is the right sort of carbs. In fact The World Health Organisation say that 55-75% of an adults diet energy should come from carbs, they also add however that no more than 10% of your carb consumption should come from simple carbs.
This label can be a bit misleading as not all simple carbs are bad for you.Fruit is a good example, as many fruits are simple sugars yet also give you essential vitamins and minerals. There is no harm in eating some of the more highly refined simple carbs on occasion, the key is not to eat huge amounts every day. The types of simple carbs to avoid in this way include cakes and cookies, white bread, pastries and dessert in general, soda, ice cream and energy drinks.
Instead try to eat foods like brown rice, barley, quinoa, wholewheat bread and pasta. These carbs will provide you with slowly released energy throughout the day and also will provide you with nutrients that are lacking from the processed, simple carbs.
One of the really good practices to get into is to look at the packaging of what you buy. Some foods can look really healthy because the marketing and packaging has been cleverly designed but actually the food itself is not so good. Look for added sugars and check to see if whole wheat flour has been used, if it has then what you are buying is a complex carbo.
Some nutritionists are starting to move on from what is good or bad for us as they feel that has been too simpliustic.The glycemic index of a food tells you how quickly your blood sugar will rise after eating it. This doesn't always mean that a high GI food is bad but it can help you understand more about the nature of the carb that you are eating.
The glycemic load of a food takes into account the glycemic index and how much carbo is in the food.This figure is achieved by multiplying a foods glycemic index number by the amount of carbo the food contains per serving and divide by 100.