Updated: Sep 13, 2018
Just recently we have been hearing a lot in the press about high and low carb diets.
Here I will explain exactly what they are, why we need them and which ones are the healthiest versions
What are Carbohydrates?
These are energy foods.
We need energy to stay alive, to move and grow.
Energy is measured in kilocalories, you probably know them as calories.
The amount of calories you need each day largely depends on your size, age and activity levels.
It is suggested that around 50% of our diets should be carbohydrate (CHO) and that alcohol can be 15% of that - yes alcohol is a carbohydrate!
However, 1 gram of CHO contains 4 calories but alcohol contains 7 per gram, so watch out for those hidden calories.
There are two sorts of carbohydrate (CHO) - sugars and starches.
Starchy foods come from plants e.g. cereals, bread, potatoes, pulses, pasta and rice.
These CHOs are known as complex carbohydrates.
Vegetables contain starch in varying amounts, most fruits do not contain any.....................
...........with the exception of bananas!
Sugars are simple carbohydrates.
In our diet they are of two types intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic sugars are those found in fruit and vegetables.
Extrinsic are in honey, table sugar, cakes, biscuits, sweets etc.
The majority of your diet should be made up of complex carbohydrates and intrinsic sugars
World Health Organisation recommend the 5 a day message. This is that we should eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, 2 of fruit and 3 of vegetable, one of these being of the green leafy variety.
A portion is 2 heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables or a side bowl of salad.
This meal is homemade meat loaf (recipe on this site) It contains celery and peppers.
Fresh fruit and plain sheep yogurt for pud.
You can count dried fruit as one of the portions, but it is very high in sugar and has no vitamin C.
Of course, not only do the fruit and vegetables contain the beneficial CHO and sugars, but are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals
Carbohydrates are also known as refined and unrefined.
Refined CHOs like white flour, white pasta and white rice contain less vitamins etc.
It is beneficial to cut these down in your diet.
Below is a birthday cake packed with carbs!!
Unrefined carbohydrates e.g. brown rice, fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds and whole grain grain bread, are the healthiest types.
They contain most of their natural nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Unrefined CHOs enter the blood stream slower than refined, so they stave off hunger for longer.
There is an index called the Glycaemic Index (GI) which tells you the rate at which foods enter the blood stream.
The lower the GI of a food, the more slowly it will be released into the body.
Glucose has the highest GI (100) so things like sweets and cakes will have a high GI. Examples of low GI foods:
porridge - 42
a slice of banana cake - 47.