Over the last couple of years, there has been a variety of conflicting information posted online surrounding the consumption of carbohydrates, and moreover, whether or not we should be eating them regularly. With journalistic quotes ranging from “put down the carbs and no one gets hurt” to “everyone should be a carbivore”, it’s no wonder people are left scratching their heads and wondering, what is best for them.
Firstly, Carbohydrates’ (CHO) main function is to provide our body and brain with energy so that we can operate effectively throughout our day. Now unfortunately, for those of you who have just read this sentence and are about to go demolish a CHO based meal, hold your horses. It’s a little more complicated than that.
There are two types of Carbohydrates:
- ‘Simple Carbs’ made up of a single sugar molecule like glucose, fructose, lactose etc.
- ‘Complex Carbs’ like starch which are made up of groups of sugar molecules bound together.
Both of these have very different outcomes on our bodies.
Simple CHO for example, those in pastries, desserts and sweetened beverages etc.. are broken down and digested at a faster rate than other foods and consequently provide us with a short burst of energy. This is due to a sharp spike in blood glucose levels over a short period of time. However, “what goes up must come down” and this spike then leads to a sudden drop or ‘crash’ leaving your body craving more sugar. Considering sugar gets turned into fat at a faster rate than any other food source, it’s no surprise that eating too many of these simple CHO can lead to significant weight gain.
On the other hand, complex CHO i.e.: Whole-grains, quinoa, legumes (chickpeas, lentils etc…) are broken down much slower. Our energy levels are then sustained for a longer period of time (flatter and more stable rise in blood glucose levels) and we don’t feel the need to eat as regularly.
Now the Glycaemic Index (GI) chart is a great way of comparing different CHO based foods (simple & complex) as it indicates how quickly our blood sugar levels will be affected after eating each type.
The GI chart is used regularly as a guide to create/manipulate meals and diets for certain people, (more commonly for diabetics and obese individuals) but this method can also be applicable to anyone interested in diet and health. Since all foods are scored out of 100, a good tip is to try to stick with foods that have a score of 50 or less.
Now, we all like the occasional biscuit or doughnut and there’s no harm in consuming one now and again. Using the GI chart doesn’t mean you have to cut out any foods in particular, especially those with a score over 50, but a visual check for certain foods may help you understand their impact.
Let’s take on the carb conspiracy together!
Thanks for reading