Are Carbohydrates Healthy Food Sources?

Carbohydrates often get a bad press in the media, with low carbohydrate diets gaining popularity, I’m often asked this by clients are carbohydrates healthy food sources? Then I’ve heard fruit are bad, don’t they increase your blood sugar? What makes whole grains different? Firstly I’ll share a bit of biology about carbohydrates to give you some background. Then I’m delighted to be joined by Krupali, @thefoodiemamma to share some tips on how to boost your wholegrain carbohydrate intake.

Facts about Carbohydrates

  • Carbs are our body’s primary fuel.
  • They are named according to their size, and are all (bread, pasta, vegetables, grains and fruit) made of the same basic sugar building blocks (monosaccharides & disaccharides) regardless of what they look like.
  • As soon you start to eat any carbohydrate, enzymes in your saliva from your mouth start to break it down, continuing in your stomach, until just monosaccharides or disaccharides are left. These are absorbed and raise your blood sugar levels.
  • There are mechanisms in your body that ensure that a set range of your blood sugar is maintained at all times (homeostasis).  In response to blood sugar rising after a meal, your body will produce insulin to lower your blood sugar, keeping it in that narrow healthy range.
  • Fruit do contain natural sugars, but your body uses these for energy, and they are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all really important for our health.

So are carbohydrates equally healthy?

When you eat complex or starchy carbs for example whole grains (for example buckwheat, brown flour, brown bread, millet, brown pasta, and bulgar wheat), the increased fibre means that it takes longer to digest; so there is lower peak in blood sugar afterwards, compared to eating refined carbs. Meaning that your body has to work less hard to keep your blood sugar within the normal range.

A high fibre diet (30g per day) has also been associated with decreased risk of bowel cancer, heart disease, death. 90% of us are not getting enough fibre.

Is Fruit Bad for you?

If you eat a spoon full of sugar, the only nutrients are sucrose. Whereas with a strawberry, not only will it contain natural sugars but also fibre, magnesium, potassium, polyphenols, vitamins A and vitamin C.

🥦Therefore choose wholegrain carbs & eat lots of fruit and vegetables.

Tips for changing from refined to whole grain carbohydrates

🍴Try a comforting porridge using buckwheat, millet or quinoa for a change from oats. ⁣

🍴Use wholegrain flours in place of refined white flours in baking, for example oat or buckwheat flour (both work well in pancakes too!).⁣

🍴Pair your curries and stir fries with quinoa or brown rice.⁣

🍴Grain salads – hearty & satiating. Use spelt, wild rice, barley or amaranth and pair with grilled protein and some leafy greens. In the summer, roast some Mediterranean veg and in the winter some root veg to add in. Drizzle over a simple dressing and toasted seeds.⁣

🍴Try eating wholemeal bread or sourdough instead of white bread. Rye bread is great for open-faced sandwiches too

See Krupali, @thefoodiemamma for recipes.

Have you read my article on the pros and cons of low carbohydrate diets.

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