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Carbohydrates

All the foods we eat are composed of mainly 3 macro nutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat. Some of them are prime source of one like bread is mainly a source of carbs, any meat is of protein and butter is of fat. Whereas other foods contain combinations of all of three. For example sandwich. Our body needs all these three macro nutrients as well as many micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals to function properly.

Carbohydrates are found in almost all plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, etc. And in milk and milk products. Carbs can be divided into mainly two types, simple carbs and complex carbs based on their GI – Glycaemic index.

The GI is the numerical index that ranks carbohydrates based on their glucose response, means how faster the food gets converted to glucose inside the body. It is actually a scientific system to determine which kind of carbs should be consumed and which not.

The glycaemic index uses a scale of 0 to 100, with glucose being reference no-100.This values are determined by feeding different food to subject human being and thereafter measuring the blood sugar. Faster the increment in blood sugar, higher the GI of the food.

When one eats a high GI food, the blood sugar level rises rapidly, in order to overcome this situation, pancreas releases hormone insulin. Insulin stores this glucose (sugar) as a fat, and further it inhibits the utilization of previously stored fat from the body. Conclusion is that eating high GI food promotes fat storage and it leads to insulin insensitivity which causes obesity and lifestyle related conditions like diabetes, coronary artery disease  etc.

How to choose the right carbohydrate

We can chose cabs on the basis of their GI. Carbs with high GI is known to be as simple carbs and the ones with high GI known to be as Complex carbs.

Simple carbohydrates Complex carbohydrates
Hi GI ( least desirable) Moderate GI Low GI (Most desirable)
Glucose, white bread, honey, maltose, cornflakes, potatoes, carrots, rice(short grain, white) fruit drinks, regular soft drinks, sweetened juices, Dates, raisins Beetroot, banana, sweet corn, mango, papaya, pineapple, yam, peas, figs, milk and milk products(whole fat) Pasta(whole wheat), oats, bajra, pulses, soy milk, nuts, beans, oil seeds like flax seeds, sesame seeds, barely, milk and milk products(low fat), burgular wheat, wheat grain, apples, oranges, grapes, guavas, lemons, limes, peaches, pears, berries.

Another important term here is the GLYCAEMIC LOAD. It describes the multiplication of the portion size and the glycaemic index. It indicates that the effect of eating low GI food with greater portion will be same as eating high GI food in smaller portion. In overall GI and GL gives us the guideline to chose the right carbs at the right time.

How to eat

  • We can eat vegetables in both formats cooked as well as raw. But cooking it for the longer time or at higher temperature will make them empty – so take care to cook it on a medium flame and do not overcook.
  • The GI of a food might be one value when it is eaten as a mini meal and when it is combined with other meals. For example fruits are very nutritious while eaten alone as a mini meal, but when we make them as a part of our main meal or when they are consumed right aft meals as dessert it does no good.  And yes juices are strict no no, fruits should be eaten with skin and seeds to take advantage of soluble and insoluble fibers.
  • Combining grain and pulses flour to make different rotis or parathas will actually lowers the GI of the meal, so always add FAT or Protein to carbs to lower the GI.
  • Roasted foods have lesser glycaemic effect compared to foods cooked by boiling and long cooking processes which reduce particle size,. Roasted channa, chapatis, sprouted dals and whole fruits are better than boiled rice, khichdi and fruit juices.

Points to ponder

Other than providing energy for normal day to day activity carbs are required to do a lot of functions in our body like

  • Regularize bowel movements thus aids to digestion.
  • Help hormones to immune the body
  • Synthesis hormones and fatty acids such as cholesterol
  • Generates antioxidants to protect our cells from damage and aging.
  • We should always avoid intake of candy cola or sweets, since simple carbs from the sugar gives empty calorie and no nutrition.
  • Fruits are the best of simple sugar because they contain fiber, and loaded with nutrition also, but take a note here:: go easy on juice cause by removing skin and crushing it in the juicer we are killing the good fellows (fibers) and to make 1 glass of juice it requires at least 3 midsize fruits (apple, orange, pomegranate) while eating the wholesome, we can’t consume more than 1 fruit at time. So go for fruit but not in juice form.
  • No less than 40% of food for the day should come from carbs – from complex carbs having high quality nutrients.

About the author

Ami Paneri Upadhyay

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