“Quality” Carbs: It’s Not Just About Your Six-Pack!

July 17, 2010 by  
Filed under health

It seems as though every week we learn something new about the real power of nutrition. Recently, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funded scientists at the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research and found some interesting information.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) and the vision loss associated with it may be connected to the “quality” of carbohydrates.

One study showed that a regular consumption of a “slow carb” ( low glycemic index) diet provided a protective effect against macular degeneration. A food’s glycemic index is an indicator of how fast the carbohydrate it contains will spike blood sugar levels.

So how do you keep your glycemic index in check? To learn more about which carbs produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com/ and follow their recommendations:
1. Pile half your dinner plate high with vegetables or salad
Aim to eat at least five serves of vegetables (this doesn’t include the starchy ones like potatoes, sweet potatoes or sweet corn) every day, and aim for foods with a variety of of colors.

2. Cut back on most potatoes
If you are a big potato eater and can’t bear the thought of giving them up, you don’t have to. Just cut back on the quantity. Don’t be afraid of trying other starchy vegetables like sweet potato, yams or taro, steamed, roasted or mashed.

3. Swap your bread
Choose a really grainy bread where you can actually see the grains, granary bread, stoneground wholemeal bread, real sourdough bread, soy and linseed bread, pumpernickel, fruit loaf or bread made from chickpea or other legume based flours.

4. Replace those high GI crunchy breakfast flakes
These refined breakfast cereals spike your blood glucose and insulin levels. Replace them with smart carbs like natural muesli or traditional (not instant) porridge oats or one of the lower GI processed breakfast cereals that will trickle fuel into your engine.

5. Make your starchy staples the low GI ones
Look for the low GI rice’s, serve your pasta al dente, choose less processed foods such as large flake or rolled oats for porridge or muesli and intact grains such as barley, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, whole kernel rye, or whole wheat kernels and opt for lower GI starchy vegetables.

6. Learn to love legumes!
Include legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas in your meals two or three times a week, more often if you are vegetarian. Add chickpeas to a stir fry, red kidney beans to a chili, a bean salad to that barbecue menu, and beans or lentils to a casserole or soup.

7. Develop the art of combining
No need to cut out all high GI carbs. The trick is to combine them with those low GI tricklers to achieve a moderate overall GI. How? Lentils with rice (think of that delicious classic Italian soup), rice with beans and chili, tabbouli tucked into pita bread (with falafels and a dash of hummus), baked beans on toast or piled on a jacket-baked potato for classic comfort food.

8. Incorporate a lean protein source with every meal
Eat lean meat, skinless chicken, fish and seafood, eggs, milk, yoghurt or cheese, or legumes and tofu if you are vegetarian. The protein portion should make up around a quarter of the plate/meal.

9. Tickle your taste buds
Try vinaigrette (using vinegar or lemon juice with a dash of extra virgin olive oil) with salads, yogurt with cereal, lemon juice on vegetables like asparagus, or sourdough bread. These foods contain acids, which slow stomach emptying and lower your blood glucose response to the carbs in the meal.

10. Go low GI when snacking

If it is healthful and low GI, keep it handy. Grab fresh fruit, dried fruit, or fruit and nut mix, low fat milk and yogurt (or soy alternatives), fruit bread etc for snacks. Limit (this means don’t buy them every week) high GI refined flour products whether home baked or from the supermarket such as cookies, cakes, pastries, crumpets, crackers, biscuits, irrespective of their fat and sugar content. These really are the ‘keep for the occasional treat’ foods.

Keep your eye on the serving size. Remember portion caution with carb rich foods such as rice, al dente pasta and noodles, potatoes etc. Eating a huge amount of these foods, even of the low GI variety, will have a marked effect on your blood glucose. A cup of cooked noodles or al dente pasta or rice plus plenty of mixed non starchy vegetables and a little lean protein can turn into 3 cups of a very satisfying meal.

Most of all, recognize that protective nutrients are in each and every meal that you eat, and we all my have the power to stave off certain age related conditions.

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2 Responses to ““Quality” Carbs: It’s Not Just About Your Six-Pack!”
  1. Chef Robert says:

    Great article. Good Job Tammy. Point #1 is a key to my diabetic success!

  2. Lynette Benton says:

    Wonderfully informative article. Thanks so much. I eat like that anyway (except I hate hot cereal), and like knowing about the subtleties of what we eat. Didn’t know about glycemic index. Thanks again.

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