There is a huge amount of information out there that floods us every day with what counts as good or bad foods to be eating. A topic that constantly seems to be debated is that of carbohydrates. Many people believe that carbs should form the basis of most peoples’ diets. It’s often cited that cutting back on carbs can result in damage to our health, leaving us lacking in energy, with promotion of depression and weight cycling (just to name a few). However, what if the exact opposite were true? What if eating too much in the way of carbs is what actually causes damage to the body and undue fatigue?
The world of science and nutrition is far from being black and white; the same can be said for carbohydrates. We cannot lump all types of carbs together and say generically they’re good and bad. There is indeed a big difference in the quality of carbs that can be consumed.
When your body digests carbs (no matter the source) it breaks them down into glucose (or sugar). The ingestion of carbs then brings with it a rise in the level of sugar in your blood, normally causing it to spike. Your body then must release a hormone (known as insulin) in order to bring it back down. The problem with this picture is the blood sugar cycling that can come about. Imagine being on a really high rollercoaster that creeps up and up and then falls right down before climbing up the next gradient. This is essentially what’s happening with your blood sugar level if you don’t eat the right types of carbohydrates.
Have you ever been sitting in the office and simply cannot stop staring at the clock around 11am wishing it was lunchtime because you’re so hungry? Or when 3pm rolls around you start craving some kind of sweet or savoury snack like candy or chips? This all has to do with the spikes and drops that occur with your blood sugar levels.
For the majority of women, the consumption of refined grains and sugars are the worst culprit for causing blood sugar cycling and should be struck off the Christmas card list. It’s these types of carbs that indeed can lead to an increase in inflammation in the body resulting in a cascade of problems such as:
•Excess bloating and gas
•Lethargy and problems with energy slumps
Let’s look at exactly what carbs you should be eating and which ones you may need to have a DTR (define the relationship) with. We all know it can be hard to have that break up chat even when it’s necessary.
Good Relationship Carbs are Worth Clinging onto
Non-starchy vegetables: basically any type of vegetable is not off limits (except some starchy carbs but we’ll come to that)
Low Sugar Fruits: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, backberries, melon and stone fruits. (Some people may still be a little more sensitive to the sugar contained in fruit so it’s important to listen to your body)
Nuts: As well as providing a good source of fat, nuts can be a great snack.
Dairy (if you do it): For those that don’t have issues with dairy, the lactose (milk sugar) contained in these products can be a good addition to the diet. Again attention should be taken not to consume too much and pay attention to how it affects your stomach and your skin.
Tubors and starchy vegetables: Again the exact amount that can be eaten of these types of vegetables will depend on your goals (if you have severe insulin resistance or are looking to lose weight then avoiding them may be more advisable). However, foods like sweet potatoes, parsnips, plantain, carrots, swede etc. make a great source of carbohydrates.
Poorer Choice of Carbs and in Need of A Serious DTR
Refined sugar products: Anything including sweets, candy, biscuits, cakes pastries etc.
Refined grains: This really equates to any form of white or starchy carbohydrate like white bread, pasta or rice.
Starchy Carbs: The only starchy carb that would be a poorer choice is the white potato. For some it’s perfectly fine to have but many others find a quick swap to sweet potato much better for blood sugar control.
Fruit juices and store-bought smoothies: Despite the many health claims made with fruit juice and smoothies, please don’t be fooled. The amount of sugar contained in a glass of orange juice has just as much as a glass of cola.
Sugar sweetened beverages: In today’s day and age this one should go without saying. If you do one thing with your diet it would be to remove sugar sweetened beverages completely.
Some good swaps for each meal time that will get your blood sugar cycling under control:
A bowl of cereal, with skimmed milk and a glass of orange juice
2-3 eggs scrambled with 1tbsp of cream, a handful of spinach and 1 strip of salmon (or ½ an avocado)
A supermarket bought sandwich, bag of crisps and fruit juice
A large chicken and bacon salad topped with almond shavings
A large bowl of pasta with a shop bought sauce
Chicken breast stuffed with cauliflower alfredo and arugula, wrapped in parma ham with a mix of Mediterranean vegetables and ½ a sweet potato.
By Emily Maguire
*originally published in May 2016 issue*