Okay so for Part I of Carbohydrates we talked over the basics of carbs: what they are at a molecular level, the different types, how our body uses carbs, how they are digested and how much we need.
For part II, I want to go over how we can apply this information so when it comes to eating we know what to look for.
WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF CARBS?
Good sources of carbs are ones that are nutrient-rich and work to better your body. You’ll notice that people who don’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables are often sick. This is because they aren’t consuming enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are found naturally in fruits and vegetables to fight off these infections and diseases.
Complex carbohydrates are larger in their molecular structure and contain fiber so they are slower to digest. These carbs are usually unprocessed and in their natural form. They do not spike sugar levels, are more nutrient-dense, and protective against disease. Whole grain breads, pastas, and rice, starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are examples of these.
Simple carbohydrates are smaller molecules that are digested quickly in the body. If eaten in excess these carbs are converted to fat. Most of these carbs are processed and are stripped of their nutrients causing them to be empty carbs. These are the white breads, pastas, and rice as well as the sodas, fruit juices, sweets, and candy.
Some fruits and vegetables fall into the simple carbs category too, BUT since they are rich in nutrients and fiber they would be considered healthy or “good” carbs.
- All of them are good sources.
- Complex Carb/High-Glycemic: White and sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, corn
- Complex Carb/Low-Glycemic: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, acai berries, goji-berries, lemons, limes, green apples
- Simple Carb/High-Glycemic: Bananas, pineapples, papaya, mango, oranges, and more
- Complex Carb/Low-Glycemic: Rolled or steel cut oats, whole-grain breads and pastas, quinoa, millet, amaranth, whole-grain rice, wild rice, basmati rice
BEANS, LEGUMES, AND PULSES
- Complex Carb/Low-Glycemic: Black beans, black eyed peas, split peas, chickpeas, lentils
- Milk, yogurts, cheese
THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
& PREVENTING ENERGY CRASHES
The Glycemic Index is a system that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on how they affect the body’s blood sugar levels (which affect energy levels).
Foods that are digested quickly spike sugar levels so they would be classified “High Glycemic” or “High GI” foods. Foods that take more time to break down, have a steadier rate of digestion, and sugar level would be classified as “Low Glycemic” or “Low GI” foods. So to prevent those energy “highs” and “lows” incorporating more complex carbs into your diet will surely help keep your energy levels from fluctuating too much throughout the day. For my visual people, below is a graph showing the raise in blood glucose levels in high GI food and then a steep crash while low GI has a smaller curve with a more steady decrease.
HIGH GLYCEMIC INDEX
QUICK TO DIGEST
RELEASES ENERGY QUICKLY = ENERGY “HIGH”
ENERGY CRASH = CRAVINGS
LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX
SLOW TO DIGEST
RELEASES ENERGY SLOWLY
FEEL FULL LONGER
WHAT ABOUT PORTION SIZES?
Portion sizes are the #1 reason why America has an obesity epidemic. From the patients I’ve seen struggling with their weight almost all of them ate large portions and most likely these foods are high in calories, which only add to the weight. Unfortunately, restaurants typically provide servings that are 3-5 times the portions we should eat. So it makes sense that we feel deprived when we try to eat healthy. This epidemic isn't our fault. The best thing to do is educate ourselves about portion distortion and be a smart consumer.
RECOMMENDED PORTION SIZES
Fruit and Starchy Vegetables: ½ cup (handful) – 1 cup (fist)
Grains, Breads, and Cereals: ½ cup (handful) – 1 cup (fist), 1 slice
Beans and Nuts: 1/2 cup (handful)
Non-starchy Vegetables: As much as you want!
When eating out a way to control your portions is eyeballing what is on your plate. Using your hand as a tool is a helpful way to guesstimate the right portions.
Fist = 1 cup
Handful = ½ cup
Palm = 3-4 oz
Thumb = 1 tbsp
I hope this is helpful to you guys. Please comment below if you have any questions or would like me to dig deeper into carbohydrates. Next, week we'll go over fats!