Carbohydrate count chart reveals it's just not true that all starches are bad; this page is all about glycemic index.
The great Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, once wrote tongue-in-cheek:
"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."
He was writing no doubt about clothing, but the truth is that fashion reaches deep into health care too; and often it's as ugly as the latest dress. Just maybe, if we're lucky, it wil be changed in a month or six.
Sometimes of course these health fads can last for years, even decades; like drinking eight glasses of water every day which was promoted by a medical doctor some seventy years ago. There's not a shred of evidence that it's beneficial unless you suffer from kidney disease, but we still believe it; it may in fact be harmful.
Many of these fashions are carried down, one generation after another; the good, the bad and the ugly.
I'm not a vegetarian myself, but my whole family was profoundly influenced by great grandmother Lizzie; she was the first one to give up all meat. And still to this day, more than a century later, if I visit any of my cousins, salads and fruit will be high on the menu. We continue to crack pecan in their shells on regularly, although those in England have changed to walnuts.
Walnuts are in fact probably even more healthy than pecans because of their high omega 3 content.
It was my father who reintroduced red meat, and plenty of it into our diets. That doesn't seem to have affected us adversely because of all the salads, vegetables and fruit we enjoy. This morning it was pawpaw, mango, prunes and cherry guavas.
For lunch we love fresh lettuce and pepperdews and herbs from the garden, hummus, homemade bread and butter, a boiled egg and cheese. And for dinner it's gem squash, zucchinis, butternut and chicken ala king, on a bed of the much brown rice. And four squares of dark chocolate.
What food fads and fashions did you inherit from your family. Those from two generations and more back, which were probably good, or those from your parents which might well be rotten? Have a good long hard look at them. More than anything else probably they will have a direct impact on whether you live to a happy, healthy eighty or not.
Currently it's carbo phobia that's in fashion. So, what are the carbohydrate facts? Anything with carbohydrate in it must be bad for your health, so avoid it? Not so. Unrefined carbohydrates are good foods, or most of them are, in moderation. So, what's fact and what is fiction and where did this fashion start?
It all started with obesity. Yes, if you are seriously overweight, then the chances are good that you got that way by pigging out on refined carbs. A cornflakes cereal and toast for breakfast, a cola and snackbar mid-morning, a white breadroll for lunch, a chocolate bar midafternoon, and pasta and sweet dessert for dinner. Indeed, bad. Particularly if you if you are inactive.
Is a cereal like oats bad? Certainly not. Toast? Breadroll? Pasta? The odd sweet dessert? Raw honey? This is where glycemic index comes in. It's a very user friendly way of planning your meals.
"Simple" carbs are made of one (called a monosaccaride, like glucose for example) or two (disaccaride, like sucrose, table sugar) sugar units. Simple carbs are very rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, requiring an insulin rush to control the level of blood sugar, storing it as fat.
Carbohydrates consist of a chain of more than two sugar molecules. In complex carbs, the sugars are strung together in long chains which have to be broken down by enzymme action before they are absorbed. Hence they tend to be absorbed more slowly into the blood stream. But... now we find that certain complex carbohydrates also cause an insulin rush. Enter Glycemic Index ...
But it's now apparent that the old adage, complex carbs are all good, and simple sugars are all bad is a gross over simplification. The potato and oats, and especially white rice, for example are broken down quite quickly into simple sugars in the intestine.
What's really important in this little dissertation on carbohydrate facts is how quickly that MEAL is turned into glucose in the bloodstream, not the individual parts of the meal, and what sort of an insulin response does THE MEAL produce.
Any meal that causes the blood sugar to rise rapidly and excessively, producing a huge insulin response by the body is detrimental to health. In the first place, the body lowers your blood sugar (high blood glucose is very bad for the blood vessel walls) by having it absorbed into the cells, firstly for energy (that's good) but the excess is stored as adipose. Fat. You see, insulin is a fat storage hormone.
But secondly, your blood sugar then rapidly drops, and you feel hungry again, often drowsy and lethargic, yawning so you eat more... too much more.
And thirdly, this is a recipe for what is known as insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
So what is important is not whether a food is a carb or not, but how quickly it affects your blood sugar. Enter Glycemic Index.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a simple scale used to indicate how fast and how high a starch will raise your blood glucose; it's not all about the carbohydrate count chart.
A food with a low GLYCEMIC INDEX will typically prompt a low to moderate rise in blood sugar, whilst carbs with a high GI will tend to cause our blood sugar level to rise too high, too quickly, causing blood vessel disease and diabetes, and obesity if we live and eat that way every day.
There are two ways of calculating the GI. Don't get hung up on the absolute values, you'll just get confused. Rather just focus on eating more of those foods with a lower GI, and when eating high GI carbs always mix them with low GI carbs, protein and small amounts of the friendly fats, which lowers the overall index.
Never plain macaroni, always macaroni cheese, or macaroni and meatballs, and of course a green salad too. Not just bread, but bread and butter, smeared with hummus, peanut butter, fish paste, or perhaps a couple slices of tomato and lettuce, both low on the GI scale.
In general you'll not find foods with a high glycemic index in a list of healthy choice foods, but there are exceptions. A mango or bunch of grapes, and green peas, for example, have relatively GIs. They are certainly healthy foods but should be eaten in the context of the whole meal. Snack all day on grapes and you'll certainly find yourself putting on weight.
More about carbohydrate facts. Starchy foods with a low glycemic index mostly are rich in natural fibre, particularly the soluble, like the pectin in apples; oats and legumes pass more slowly through the gut and their glucose content is absorbed more slowly, over a longer period. Thus you feel more satisfied, and will tend to eat less. Obviously this is a win win situation.
In fact that fibre makes up much of the invaluable carbohydrate.
Cutting out all the starch means grossly reducing the fibre in your diet too.
But foods that are low in fibre are rapidly processed by the gut, produce a sudden rise in blood sugar, and an excessive insulin response. It's okay now and again, but if you eat high GI foods three times a day, plus snacks in between, then you get wild oscillations in blood glucose, and are setting yourself up for diabetes, and heart and blood vessel disease.
Parboiled rice has the same GI as glucose, by the way. 100! Bad stuff, it causes a very strong insulin reaction. If you insist on eating it, then you must have butter on it; only a little, if your cholesterol is not good. A protein dish, with at least three veg and a big salad will go a long way to counter the effect of that very high GI white rice.
Cooking foods increases the Glycemic Index, sometimes dramatically. For example,
Raw carrot 15, Cooked carrot 39
Raw rolled oats 51, Cooked oats porridge 61
Also, HOW you cook it. For example, boiled sweet potato is actually a low GI food, but baked or roast them and they become a high GI food. Yes, it's not simple. Planting sweet potatoes ... certainly one of our healthy choice foods.
Health nuts insist on eating at least half their food raw. There's some sense in it...
Here are a randomly chosen few carbohydrates, their total energy (per 100g) together with their glycemic indices.
Low GI: 55 or less
Medium GI: 56-69
High GI: 70+
You'll notice that chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans have a high carbohydrate content, but a low glycemic Index. Why's that? Two reasons. Firstly, because they are also an excellent protein source. Adding cheese to your bread roll, and of course a leaf of lettuce too, meat with your potatoes, and protein in general, lowers the GI of your overall meal; add a protein and fat to your meal to lower the glycemic index.
chickpeas have a built in mixture of protein and carbohydrate; that's what
makes them one of the healthiest and satisfying foods. They stay with you. New Australian research proves that; it's not just anecdotal.
And secondly they have a high fibre content which also lowers the glycemic index. It's a particularly good mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre.
Thirdly, in 100g of chickpeas there's 2.6g of fat, good fat; that fat further lowers the glycemic index of chickpeas.
Interestingly, an important study by Pittaway et al in J am Diet Ass 2008 showed that four cans of chickpeas per week had an enormously beneficial effect on total serum cholesterol and especially the low density fraction; fasting insulin and insulin resistance were also lowered. Furthermore the fibre in chickpeas is significantly more effective than other fibre sources in regulating blood cholesterol.
Chickpeas are very easy to cook, but a little aforethought is required. They have to soak overnight. Take this authentic hummus recipe, for example, you can throw it together in only FOUR minutes! Literally. I'm about to do it now for my lunch! Hummus has the lowest Glycemic Index on the chart: 6. Good stuff. AUTHENTIC HUMMUS RECIPE ... a GI of only 6.
Many of these starches have little flavour of their own; adding thyme herb benefits for example to your butternut, or vinegar to your potato crisps makes them a lot more interesting.
Another is one of our favourites, the lima bean. The carbohydrate here too has a very low glycemic index; it's not fattening. Growing lima beans may be of interest if you have a large garden; they are astonishingly prolific; all these came from one seed.
Grinding grains into a flour dramatically increases their Glycemic Index. That's why bread (brown or white), cookies and cakes have a high carb load and a high GI. Mix with sugar, flour makes a deadly food for the body. Chocolate cake is only for birthday parties, and you're certainly not doing your children a favour by giving them cookies. You'll turn them into monsters!
Aside: My grandchild turned two yesterday. It was distinctly noticeable how she and her sister behaved badly for a couple days. Finely ground flour goodies, high in sugar... what's interesting is that a high GI meal actually has an affect on your insulin production for a few days.
Mixing high and low GI carbs, together with protein and the healthy fats is what lowers the insulin response. For example,
Add raisins or grated apple, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
to your oats cereal, rather than sugar or honey. Interestingly the GI
of honey is much lower than that of sugar, but it's still highish.
Further lower the GI with yoghurt...
Always have some protein for breakfast, as well
as a cereal. I'm a nut my family tells me, but I add hummus to my
cereal! It keeps me going for the day. Or a boiled egg, small piece of
fish or cheese...
Avocado is a healthy fat and is perfect on a sandwich.
Olive pate, cottage cheese, peanut butter, tomato and lettuce on your breadroll.
A salad, fresh fruit with your meat and potatoes, or pasta and chicken.
HELENS 15 EURO SALAD ... it saved my life, literally.
Avoid the high protein shakes; it makes no sense to use an unhealthy technique to become healthIER... but do radically cut your high GI carbs, eating only their low GI cousins until you have reached your goal weight. Carbohydrate count chart factors aren't enough; rather think GI. FREE WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAMS ...
A BMI around 22-25 is ideal.
OPEN By Andre Agassi
Read how Agassi survived on lentil soup and baked potatoes, three
times a day in his first months on the circuit. It was all he could
afford! And he couldn't have chosen better for sustained energy...
OPEN ANDRE AGASSI ...
Bernard Preston is a retired chiropractor intensely interested in healthy living; he advocates grasping the meaning of glycemic index and the carbohydrate count chart.
Understand them, and follow their dictates, and you'll never have to diet again.