To eat or not to eat carbohydrates – that is the question. There are good carbs and there are bad carbs. How can we tell the difference and how do we know what to eat?
The old way of classifying carbohydrates:
Complex carbohydrates provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and energy. Some foods that contain complex carbohydrates are whole grain bread, legumes like peas and beans, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables.
Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly to provide energy. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in milk, fruits and vegetables. Simple carbs are also found in processed foods like syrup, soda, and refined sugar found in many processed baked goods.
In this way of classifying carbs, it is recommended that we limit our intake of simple carbs and get most of our carbohydrates from complex carbs.
The new way of classifying carbohydrates:
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly blood sugar rises after ingesting a food with carbohydrates. Eating a diet full of foods that have been rated with a high GI may contribute to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Highly processed or highly refined carbohydrates have been found to have a high GI — foods like white bread, white rice, white pasta, french fries and refined breakfast cereals.
Whole foods will have a lower GI — legumes, whole fruit, and whole grains like wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Many other factors influence the GI of a food. Fiber content, fat content, ripeness, and type of starch also affect the GI. Thus some foods like potatoes and bananas have a high GI.
Diets that advise you to eat a low amount of carbohydrates have gone part of the way to increase awareness of the differences of carbs. The Glycemic Index has also helped us to determine that all carbs are not created equal. Some kinds of carbohydrates help promote health, but others actually increase the risk for diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease.
What should we eat?
The general rule is that highly processed carbs are not as good for us as natural carbs. How can we get away from highly refined foods – it’s everywhere you look!
Here are some techniques for buying food:
- Educate yourself. learn to read the backs of packages of food and know the difference between a processed food and a natural food. (However, if it’s packaged in a box, bag, or can – chances are it’s processed.)
- Go to the store with a list.
- Do not go to the store hungry.
- Do not go to fast food restaurants. Instead try out diners or restaurants that boast home cooked meals.
- Get your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets or farm stands whenever possible. Not only will you save money, you will also be getting better quality produce.
Read more about The Glycemic Index: http://www.joslin.harvard.edu/education/library/glycemic_index.shtml
About the Author
Renee Kennedy is the editor of the monthly ezine NutriCounter Update. Come and visit the NutriCounter web site at http://www.nutricounter.com/news.htm for an extensive selection of articles on health, nutrition and exercise.