With many new diets, eating plans and supplements flooding the market, carbohydrates are losing popularity as fast as dungarees and braces. There is much more emphasis on proteins to control weight and lean meat is no longer limited in some diets, while carbohydrate intake is curbed in many eating plans.
Simply speaking, every diet (or meal) needs a protein, carbohydrate and fat component, but the proportions of each will vary according to the health, goals and activity level of the consumer, who is the “eater”. A more active person or athlete will require more carbohydrates to generate the excess energy needed to complete daily tasks that are more demanding than a person who sits a desk all day. Carbohydrates are the energy givers created mainly from plant life, so it follows that healthy carbohydrates are found in most fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates can be subdivided into sugars, starches and cellulose which provide fuel for optimal functioning of the body.
Follow these five guidelines with carbohydrates and you will be able to lose weight and have sustained energy.
1. Be aware of the Glycemic Index (GI) in food – aim to eat foods with a low glycemic index. Glycemic Index it is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate foods are digested and absorbed and reflects on blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI are absorbed quickly into the blood stream and lead to elevated blood glucose levels, while foods with a low GI are broken down more slowly over time and keep blood glucose levels more stable which prevents hypoglycaemia, lethargy and dizziness. Replace potato with sweet potato and use noodles instead of rice to substitute high GI to low GI and you feel a difference in your energy levels that will be more consistent. Reducing the GI reduces insulin levels and increases the fat burning process.
2. Combine carbohydrates with protein in each meal – this will increase satiety and discourage you to overeat. It will also help with digestion and control caloric intake.
3. Do not eat too many carbohydrates in one sitting – this will induce lethargic feelings when your stomach is so full that your eyes want to close and eat controlled portions.
4. Do not eat carbohydrates late at night – apart from having bad dreams or struggling to fall asleep, your body will not metabolize the food effectively while you are resting and there is no need for excess energy from carbohydrates when your body should be resting.
5. Take individual differences into account – find a low glycemic food that you enjoy and remember that each person’s carbohydrate requirement is different. Not all carbohydrates are of equal nutritional value, but most from nature are good for the body, but artificially created products such as bread, white rice, pasta and cookies are not as healthy.
A well balanced diet will have aspects of protein, fat and carbohydrates but it is critical to choose food wisely, especially carbohydrates that will provide energy to get through the day. Make friends with carbohydrates by finding a low GI food that sustains energy and do not eat muffins that add to the “muffin tops”.