9 June 2021

Spotlight: Healthy Carbohydrates

Fuel your body with carbohydrates you can trust.

There is often a misconception that low GI also means low carbohydrate. This is not true. Low carbohydrate looks at the quantity of carbohydrates in a food whereas low GI looks at the quality of the carbohydrate, and how your body uses and responds to it.

So what are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that comes in two forms – starches (e.g. potatoes and grains) and sugars (e.g. sucrose, lactose, and fructose). They are found mainly in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes) or food made from plants. When eaten, our body breaks starch down into glucose which is released into our bloodstream causing a rise in blood glucose levels (BGLs).

Quality carbohydrates vs low carbohydrates

Good carbohydrates (or low GI carbohydrates) are broken down slowly, trickling a steady supply of fuel into your tank. As well as providing sustained energy, low GI carbohydrates are naturally more filling and help you feel fuller for longer so you don’t overeat. By comparison, high GI carbohydrates can cause your blood sugars to soar, then come crashing down, leaving you feeling flat and triggering hunger. It’s like taking a rollercoaster ride. This sudden rise in BGLs puts pressure on your body to produce more insulin, which over time can lead to Type 2 Diabetes and other health complications.

How to have a better relationship with carbohydrates:

  • Don’t cut the carbohydrates. Be choosy and swap to healthy low GI choices.
  • Aim to spread your intake of carbohydrates evenly throughout the day.
  • Highly active people should eat more carbohydrates (and more food!), and those with a sedentary lifestyle should keep consumption to the lower end of the recommended daily intake. Generally speaking, the minimum amount of carbohydrate recommended is 130g per day based on the energy and glucose requirements of our central nervous system.
  • A slice of bread can weigh 40 grams but only contain 15 grams of carbohydrate. A medium sized apple contains around 15 grams of carbohydrates
  • Eating carbohydrates increases serotonin levels – the feel-good hormone – so recognise your carbohydrate cravings as your body’s way of trying to make you feel happy.

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