Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient for everybody, however, when people hear the word carbohydrate they typically think of white pasta, bread and pastries. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are also great sources of carbohydrates. There are many low-carb diets that are currently trending such as paleo and keto diets. That's not to say those diets are bad, and they can actually be beneficial for some people and their health goals but they are not a one size fits all diet. We need carbs because they are our main source of energy!
So really, its the refined carbohydrates that you should be weary of that lack important nutrients and fiber and B vitamins needed to help convert carbs into that much needed energy.
When grains like rice are processed into white rice the bran and the germ are removed which are the fibrous part of the grain. This can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and cause unstable energy levels and potentially encourage overeating. Therefore, look for sources of carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index (see below for more information). Refined carbohydrates have also been linked to numerous diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as, hyperactivity and neurological conditions.
You may have heard that grains can be hard to digest and that is true. They contain something called a phytic acid that can decrease nutrient absorption. This doesn't mean you should avoid grains, however, you should consider soaking your grains to help break down the phytic acid. They can also be found in nuts, seeds and legumes (sprouting also helps break it down).
A quick note on gluten
A of people associate carbs with gluten, which makes sense since many gluten containing foods are your traditional carbs like pastas and breads. However, it's actually gliadin, the protein in wheat, that is the main culprit. I won’t get into too much detail as this could be a whole post on its own but consuming a diet free of gluten has been shown to improve digestion for someindividuals. You don’t have to throw out all gluten and become gluten-free overnight. There are some options better than others such as sprouted breads (Ezekial brand). Also, don’t go to the health food store and start buying gluten-free packaged foods. It is likely that these are just as bad as some non-gluten items. Studies are coming out to say that gluten-free diets increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, these portrayals of gluten-free diets are not accurate and not what health advocates actually recommend.
Low Carb Diets
Low carb diets have been gaining A LOT of popularity in recent years. Most famous would be the paleo diet or the well marketed Whole 30 program. Low carb diets have been seen to help people lose weight and improve various health conditions. I do think these diets can be helpful for some individuals but unfortunately they can be quite restrictive so if people don't keep up this way of eating they tend to gain weight back quickly and perpetuate an unhealthy relationship with food.
If you are on a low carb diet, or thinking about starting, then make sure you are taking the right steps to make sure you are getting enough nutrients and fiber. Fiber is key to elimination and the removal of toxins from our body. Also be aware that many of our grocery stores are filled with low-carb packaged foods which completely lack useful nutrients and likely leave you unsatisfied and wanting more.
Regardless of how healthy you are, it's good for everyone to take a serious look at the amount and types of carbohydrates they are consuming. Complex carbs are a good option because they slow digestion and don’t cause that blood sugar spike.
This is especially important for people with blood sugar imbalances (yes - I'm talking to you "hangry" people) or even more serious, diabetes. Looking at where foods fall on the glycemic index can be a good tool to help you determine which foods to eat. But what is it exactly and how do you know you what foods are high on the scale? The glycemic index is: “...is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose (sugar) levels compared to a standard food” and the glycemic load is: "number that estimates how much the food will raise a person's blood glucose level after eating it".
For the glycemic index, the higher the number on the GI scale the more rapidly it is broken down into glucose. Glucose is used for energy but when we have extra it is stored in our fat cells or in our muscles to be used later
Here is a breakdown of the GI scale:
High: 70 to 100
Medium: 50 to 70
Low: below 50
And the GL scale:
High: 20 or higher
Medium: 11 to 19
Low:10 or less
There are many resources online that give you a list of every food and where it sits on the GI and GL scales if that is something that is of concern to you.
If you are worried about sticking to a low GI scale diet then here are some simple alternatives for you:
Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
Brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice instead of white rice
Brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, chickpea pasta instead of white pasta
Spices, herbs, soya sauce, apple cider vinegar, olive oil instead of store bought sauces with hidden sugars
Raw cacao or dark chocolate instead of sugary chocolate
Low carb veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, chard, asparagus, kale, spinach, green beans, arugula, leeks, onions, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, avocado, turnips, cabbage, carrots
Low carb protein: Eggs, kefir, salmon/fish, fish, poultry, beef, chia, flax, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, cashew
Here are some great recipe options that contain healthy and nutritious sources of carbohydrates:
In good health,
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