Not all carbohydrates are bad, in fact we all need certain forms of carbohydrates; it is one of the essential food groups to include in our daily diets for healthy lifestyle for they provide us with energy, as well as important nutrients and fibre, but unfortunately carbs are often misunderstood. The key is looking at the type of carbohydrate you eat and also how you eat them.
Read on to find out more.
The types of carbohydrates and what you need to know
Sugars. They are also called simple carbohydrates because they are in the most basic form. They can be added to foods, such as desserts and processed foods. They also include the kinds of sugar that are found naturally in fruits, vegetables and milk.
Starches. They are complex carbohydrates, which are made of lots of simple sugars strung together. Your body needs to break starches down into sugars to use them for energy. Starches include bread, cereal and pasta. They also include certain vegetables, like potatoes, peas and corn.
Fibre. It is also a complex carbohydrate. Your body cannot break down most fibres, so eating foods with fibre can help you feel full and make you less likely to overeat. Diets high in fibre have other health benefits. Fibre is also essential for your gut microbiome and good digestion, and may help prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation. They may also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Fibre is found in many foods that come from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
All too often we hear women state “I’m giving up carbs” as the first port of call when they want to lose weight. However, studies show that women on low carbohydrate diets in midlife are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers found that women who restricted their diets with low carbohydrate intake were depleted of important nutrients as their choices were dominates by low fat, sugar free highly processed ‘healthier’ options that lead to weight gain and insulin resistance.
For it is about the type of carb, not “cutting carbs”, when it comes to our weight and health (and also how you eat them)!
What is Glycaemic Index (GI) and Glycaemic Load (GL)
Fribe-rich complex carbohydrates are essential in our diets, and one of the key benefits is that they have a much lower glycaemic load (GL). This basically means these foods take longer to digest allowing for slower sugar release into the bloodstream. The midlife stages in a woman’s life are associated with a lot of hormonal change, this means our body is experienced an even higher requirements for nutrients and energy to help us cope and stay healthy. Choosing the right type of carbohydrates is vital.
The glycaemic index (GI) assigns a numeric score out 100 to a food based on how drastically it makes your blood sugar rise. The lower a food's glycaemic index, the slower blood sugar rises after eating that food. In general, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI, and the more fibre or fat in a food, the lower it's GI.
But the glycaemic index tells just part of the story. What it doesn't tell you is how high your blood sugar could go when you actually eat the food. To understand a food's complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly it makes glucose enter the bloodstream and how much glucose per serving it can deliver. A separate measure called the glycaemic load does both. Without being too technical here it basically means being more aware of foods we consume and focusing on fibre. A good example is watermelon while it has a high glycaemic index (80). But a serving of watermelon has so little carbohydrate that its glycaemic load is only 5.
The best nutrient dense carbohydrates to include in your diet:
All beans: white beans, kidney beans, edamame, white beans, black beans
Seeds and nuts: flaxseeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
Quinoa, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, buckwheat
Lentils, split peas
Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, peas, collard greens,
Sweet potato, parsnips, baked white potato with skins
Apples and pears
What about resistant starch?
Resistant starch can have powerful health benefits. This includes improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite and our gut bacteria love it! It functions like soluble, fermentable fibre - it goes through your stomach and small intestine undigested, eventually reaching your colon where it feeds your friendly gut bacteria.
You can find resistant starch in grains, seeds and legumes as well as some starchy foods, including raw potatoes and green(unripe) bananas.
In fact, if you fear starchy carbs like rice and potato, you can increase their resistant starch by cooking and then cooling them before eating. The cooling turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches via retrogradation. Once cooled, if you reheat the potato or rice it actually increases the resistant starch even further, allowing a slower release of energy into the blood stream.<1>
How to eat carbohydrates
The trick here is also not to eat carbs on their own. Ensuring you always eat any carb with some protein or good fats will help slow down this release of energy even further, providing more satiety and a better blood sugar regulation.
In fact, research suggests that you can take this one step further and it is about the order in which you eat your carbs. The order is:
Eat the veg first (e.g. broccoli, carrots, peppers, etc)
Then the protein and fat
And lastly the starchy carbs.
What happens is, the fibre from the vegetables is broken down by the stomach and moves into our intestines where it coats the walls of the intestine with a protective-type mesh so that when we eventually consume the starchy carbs, it reduces the absorption of the sugars into the bloodstream. Bingo!
So don’t cut the carbs. Look at the type of carbs and then at how you eat them.
If you are struggling with blood sugar imbalances and want to understand more about how to eat the right way fro you, then get in touch with us now and book a free discovery call to find out more.
British Nutrition Foundation (2018) www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html
NHS Eat Well (2018) www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/