When it comes to our diet whether we are looking to lose weight, maintain our muscle mass, eat healthy, or just maintain our current healthy life style, understanding what we are putting into our bodies is key. After discovering I am Gluten intolerant, and adjusting my diet accordingly, I truly believed I had been forced into a healthy low carb life style…that is until I took a closer look at the nutritional facts behind the foods I am eating. I thought I would take some time to break down the 3 big components (starting with Carbs) of our diets to hopefully open up everyone else’s eyes the way mine were.
Carbohydrates…what are they?
Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function in the form of glucose, often refered to as blood sugar. The best sources of carbohydrates deliver essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients ie: fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. All carbs trigger the release of insulin (a fat storing hormone released by the pancreas) needed for proper cell function, however, too much insulin can lead to insulin resistance, and when our cells become resistant to insulin we develop a sensitivity to carbs which results in a reduced ability to process them, which causes our body to store them as FAT (usually in our hips, gutt, and thighs!)
Different types of Carbohydrates: Simple and Complex
Simple carbohydrates included sugars such as fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates are best described as starches or fibers. Complex carbohydrates are the healthiest source of carbohydrates as they help prevent blood sugar fluctuations. The fibre content slows digestion therefore allowing the body to absorb glucose at a rate that won’t spike insulin and blood sugar levels.
How do I know which carbs are best?
A new system, called the glycemic index (GI), aims to classify carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar compared to pure glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar, the higher the GI the less you should consume. Diets rich in high-glycemic-index foods, which cause quick and strong increases in blood sugar levels, have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. GI alone can not be used to determine how one should choose their carbs, we need to also consider the food’s glycemic load (GL), which takes into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food and the impact of that carbohydrate on blood sugar levels. GL is determined by multiplying a foods glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate it contains, and in general, a glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium, and 10 or under is low.
I know this is a lot of information to take in, but with all the technical information aside, the easiest way to know that you are choosing the right carbs is as follows:
- Always choose foods in their natural forms
- Substitute veggies for starches (rice, pasta, breads…) whenever possible
- Avoid white starches when possible (have a Sweet Potato instead of that Yukon Gold potato)
- Use fruit (nature’s natural desert) to satisfy your sweet tooth
- Choose only whole grains
- If all else fails follow this link to get the GI and GL for any food out there!
I have decided to limit my daily carb intake to 150g/day, in order to become more aware of what it is I am consuming and how I can get the best out of my limited carbs, and I would love you all to join me in this challenge….post your comments and let me know how you do!!