We hear so many different bits of advice from all sorts of experts. Some experts suggest low carbohydrate foods while others suggest high carbohydrate foods. How can you decide between all the different suggestions from all these different experts?
Well, let’s go through some of the terms used:
- Complex carbohydrates: these are long and branched chains of different types of sugars, all linked together. These are also known as starches, but the fundamental point is that most nutritionists believe that eating these complex carbohydrates results in a longer digestion process and fewer spikes (sudden increases) in your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels.
- Simple carbohydrates: these are much shorter, unbranched chains of different types of sugars. In simple carbohydrates, they may be chains of 2-5 sugars as opposed to hundreds of sugars in the complex carbohydrates.
- Fiber: there are two types of fiber—soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. For proper bowel function, we need both. High fiber can also reduce cholesterol levels and appears to decrease the risk of colon cancer. Fiber comes mainly from eating plants—fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes.
- Whole grains: by definition, whole grain foods use the entire grain, made up of bran (the covering of the grain containing fiber, B vitamins and minerals), the germ (the middle of the grain, containing essential fatty acids and vitamins) and the endosperm (the softer, inner part of the grain, containing most of the carbohydrates).
- Starchy vegetables: these are the vegetables that contain higher amounts of complex carbohydrates. Examples include all types of squash, potatoes, peas and beans. Eating lots of these would likely put you at a high carbohydrate diet.
- Non-starchy vegetables: these are the vegetables that contain lower amounts of complex carbohydrates. Examples include sprouts, leafy green vegetables, celery, broccoli, onions, tomato (actually a fruit, but let’s forget about that for now…), garlic, water chestnuts, cucumbers and eggplant. Eating lots of these would likely put you at a low carbohydrate diet.
To add another layer to this, every individual digests at a different rate. The best way to find the best combination of high and low carbohydrate foods is to keep an eye on your blood sugar values when you have a high carbohydrate food as opposed to a low carbohydrate food. Of course, this DOES mean more work for you, but in the long run, it will put you in a much healthier place. Look for foods that don’t cause rapid increases in blood sugar and for high fiber foods!