Carbe Diem – Seize Carbohydrates

No, this post is not about ceasing carbohydrates. It is about seizing carbohydrates; to grasp and understand clearly the nutrient that is carbohydrates.

For almost 60 years, carbohydrates have been a source of nutritional controversy. This is especially so among those trying to lose weight or manage their diabetes. The science to support low-carbohydrate diets has been conflicting at best. However, this isn’t surprising since we all know that nutrition needs are highly individual, particularly where weight loss and glucose control are concerned.

You may agree, carbohydrates are nonetheless a wonderful thing. They provide a large proportion of energy we need to move our bodies, and fuel our organs to function optimally. Surely that would make us feel energetic, satisfied and often happy (think chocolate cake!).  Yet, while carbohydrates are found in almost all foods, not all are created equal, so different types will affect your body and blood sugars differently.

Understanding Carbohydrates

Generally, there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex

  • Simple carbohydrates: Also known as “sugar”. They are easy to break down, which is why they taste sweet when they hit your tongue. White and brown sugar, candies and sweetened drinks are some examples.

Did you know simple sugars are found in fruit and milk

  • Complex carbohydrates: Can be either “starch” or “fibre”. They take more time to break down, which is why they don’t taste as sweet, and can give you a more sustained level of energy. Some examples are bread, rice, beans and legumes. However, often when dietitians advise having complex carbohydrates, they are usually referring to wholegrain foods like brown rice and wholemeal bread, and certain wholegrain starchy vegetables like corn which contain more fibre that can keep you fuller for longer, and contribute to a more gradual, sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream.

2 types of carbohydrates

What carbohydrates should we be eating?

The key is in choosing the right types, not avoiding them altogether. Here are 3 tips to help you choose healthier carbohydrate foods:

1. Choose whole food sources of complex carbohydrates

Other than wholegrain foods like wholemeal bread and brown rice, foods that fall into these category include vegetables, beans and legumes. They are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

WholegrainsHealthier Choice Symbol higher in wholegrains

2. Eat less refined carbohydrates

Foods like white rice, white bread and white beehoon are more processed, and have healthy nutrients like fibre stripped from them.

Did you know white bread and wholemeal bread contain similar amount of carbohydrates

white bread vs wholemeal bread carbohydrates

3. Enjoy simple carbohydrates in moderation

Food and beverages with high amounts of added sugars are often high in calories and contain low to no beneficial nutrients. Besides, they’re a serious culprit when it comes to spikes in your blood sugar. However, remember fruit and milk are an exception as they both contain important vitamins and minerals we need.

So armed with a better understanding, are you ready to “seize the day” by making healthier informed choices on the types of carbohydrates to include in your daily diet?