An Updated Post: Pick the Right Carbs: Carbohydrates & the Low GI Diet

We have called them “bad” “fattening” “the devil” and so on, but their true nutritional benefit has been jeopardised by popular myths and misinformation. Yes you can eat carbohydrates after 5 and No they are not fattening! Let us get the facts straight..

 Carbohydrates are the best source of energy for your body including vital organs such as the brain and your central nervous system. When digested, carbohydrates break down to form glucose in the bloodstream. The pancreas then secretes a hormone called insulin to help glucose move from the blood into cells.

 Where are they found?

  • Breads & Breakfast Cereals
  • Rice & Pasta
  • All flours & grains
  • Starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn)
  • Fruit, Juices & Legumes
  • Milk & Yoghurt
  • Sugar, honey
  • Biscuits, cakes & lollies

 Carbohydrates DO NOT CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN! You need to realise that you gain weight when you consume too many calories, whether they are from carbohydrates, fats or proteins. Low carb diets lead to SHORT TERM weight loss because:

 1. Weight loss is mainly water and not body fat.

2. Calories are restricted.

When it comes to carbohydrates, consider the following – HOW MUCH? TYPE? WHAT GOES ON IT?

If you consume a lot of carbohydrates with little activity, your total calorie intake is probably high leading to weight gain. Adding high fat spreads on breads, full fat yoghurt or milk on cereals or using cream based sauces in pasta dishes increases the calorie content of your meal. The type of carbohydrates that you should have are those known as complex carbohydrates or better yet, the Low GI varieties.

This will bring us to the concept of Low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods. The GI is a term given to describe how quickly carbohydrates break down and affect your blood sugar levels. Carbs that break down quickly causing a quick high rise in your sugar levels are high GI foods. Those that are digested and absorbed more gradually, causing a slower, longer lasting rise in blood sugar levels are considered low GI foods.

Having a low GI diet is believed to improve your body’s ability to use glucose for energy and improves your feeling of fullness which can help with weight management. A low GI diet can also be low in fat and high in fibre hence can be appropriate for all people.

The following is a list of Low GI foods to choose from:

 Bread products

Wholegrain bread slices or rolls
Wholemeal pita/pocket bread or tortilla
Fruit loaf or raisin bread
Sourdough Rye

Breakfast cereals
All Bran/ Bran flakes/ wholewheat flakes
Oatbran , oats
Special K

Rice, pasta, noodles
Wholemeal Pasta ,wheat noodles
Basmati rice, Brown rice, Rice noodles, Barley or Cous cous

Starchy vegetables
Sweet potato
Sweet corn
Broad beans, split peas, baked beans, chick peas, lentils, kidney beans (these are also your legumes)

Fruit Apples, Pears, Oranges, Plums, Peaches, Kiwi fruit, Strawberries, Berries, Plums

Milk & Milk products Low Fat Milk, Low fat yoghurt, Soy varieties (Soy milk, yoghurts)

The amount of Carbs that you should have per day usually depend on your activity levels and that is how I usually set my patients’ daily allowance of carbs. So remember not to forget about your energy foods, and for long lasting energy and feeling of fullness, opt for Low GI foods!

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